Happy New Year to everyone, especially the "regulars" and those who appeals are coming up.
I'm starting to get requests to check Bucks appeal presentations, and I'm afraid I have to say "No". If I do it for one, then I really have to do it for all, and it becomes time-consuming. If there are any specific questions, such as those that have appeared on the forum today, I'm happy to try and help.
The panel will obviously have read your written submission, but they will have had to read lots of other papers as well, so they need reminding about your case. Don't be afraid to take them through your letter of appeal. It's a good idea to refer to the supporting evidence as you go along, but make it easy for them to follow: "If you turn to such-and such document, the first page, second paragraph ......." (pause until you see that everyone has found the right place) "...... you'll see that ....."
If you cover all the points that were explained in the "Letter of Appeal for Mary", then you are very unlikely to have omitted anything that matters. If the panel do want any further details, they will ask you. If your presentation is short, they will probably breathe a sigh of relief!
I feel sure the clerk would appreciate a spare copy of your presentation at the start if you don’t mind bringing one. (The clerk will take brief notes during the hearing, but a copy of your presentation will ensure a full and accurate record of your case.)
Aim to arrive in good time. If you should have any problems such as parking (and the panel is running to schedule), you don’t want to arrive at your hearing breathless and flustered. If you’re too early, have a book or newspaper with you to pass the time. Relax with a flask of coffee.
Unfortunately Reception might be a bit too crowded for relaxation purposes! If the usual pattern is followed, there could be up to 8 panels a day working simultaneously (although I guess one of these is likely to be in Amersham). For hearings in Aylesbury you will be taken to one of the rooms in County Hall, or one of the buildings across the road, or to the Civic Centre.
Be prepared for the possibility of delays, and plan car parking time accordingly. The first case usually gets under way more or less on time, unless there's a major traffic jam somewhere, but unexpected delays can then build up. In a random survey a few years ago, 18 appellants were seen within 15 minutes, 10 within 15-30 minutes, 8 within 30-45 minutes, 4 within 45-60 minutes, and 2 after an hour or more.
It doesn’t matter if you’re nervous. The hearing is meant to be “as informal as possible” but, inevitably, when you walk into a strange room and sit down with three panel members, an LA representative and a clerk, it can still seem intimidating. Remember that panels are used to dealing with nervous and sometimes distraught parents. Much better to be nervous than overconfident.
Panel members will not intentionally seek to do anything to add to your stress. They have to assess the evidence rigorously, but they will do their best to put you at your ease, so that you can present your case properly. When it's all over, even if you disagree with the result, I hope you will feel that you have been treated considerately and given a fair hearing.
If you introduce any last-minute papers (other than schoolwork), please help by providing 6-7 copies, so that everyone present has their own copy (3 panel members, LA representative, clerk, 1-2 parents).
You may view the LA representative as the “opposition”, but he/she will not be confrontational. Basically all that’s going to be said on behalf of the LA is that your child did not score 121. Anything else is a matter for the panel.
Try not to be emotional. Be factual. Be truthful. Don't exaggerate. Avoid clichés (e.g. "We were shocked by the result. We're not pushy parents. We're only here because it's what Mary wants. We know our child better than anyone and she should be awarded the grammar school she so richly deserves. Her teachers agree with us and they should know." Etc., etc.)
When invited to sum up, do keep to the minute or two specified in the booklet. Just remind the panel very succinctly of your key points. Alternatively, you could simply respond "Thank you but there's nothing further I wish to say", and no one will mind.
Finally, although you will be hoping for a positive outcome, be prepared for anything. 2 x 120 is not necessarily a guarantee of success, whereas appeals with low scores are occasionally upheld. Some decisions are on a knife-edge and really could go either way.