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 Post subject: Appeals - some advice
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 2:34 pm 
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I hope that the below will assist those who have to undergo the daunting appeals process.

I attended an appeal for Wirral Grammar School for Boys on behalf of my son who narrowly missed the 236 mark by 3 marks.

The panel comprises a lay person, two representatives of the school and a determining panel of three. So that's six people in total who you face as you walk in: the lay person is on your left, the Wirral Grammar reps are on your right, and you are facing three panel members. It is quite unnerving, so you need to brace yourself for this.

The rep from Wirral then read out the reasons/ criteria for non acceptance and defers to the panel chairperson. They will then give you an opportunity to speak and present your case. I prepared some notes in advance and rather than read a pre prepared speech I used the bullet points to ensure that I got my message across. I noticed that all 3 panel members rarely looked up and were busy making notes. The two reps from Wirral less so, and eye contact was made. However, later on in the process eye contact was made with the panel.

I would say that they will be sympathetic to something particularly untoward - trauma or sickness when undertaking the exam adversely impacting on them and not reflecting their true ability. However, in order to demonstrate this you will need to back it up. I would strongly suggest that evidence to support this needs to be provided to the panel in the written submissions several weeks in advance of the appeal.

There were approximately 30 sets of parents there at the debriefing and judging on previous success criteria, only 5 will be successful. So you must prepare yourself for bad news.

I believe that my submission was very well received and indeed I was praised by the chair for my succinct presentation. I mentioned the reasons I believed my son would both be an asset to the school and why it was the preferred school for him. It is about him after all. Mention of the ethos of the school and pastoral leadership is also recommended.

However, the overriding factor and ultimately the stumbling block for us, was not being able to back up the strong belief that my son had an off day during the test. As one of the panel members pointed out, the "mean" score for those attending WGB is in the 250 range, well in excess of 236, which is in excess of 233. Hand on heart, can you honestly say he will not struggle in the school environment from the off? And I believe that question to be genuinely levelled. So you need to have an honest and robust response. I floundered a little at that point, I have to admit.

The other strong recommendation I would advise is for your Head-teacher to write a letter to the panel on your son or daughter's behalf stating not only what personality traits they have, but MOST IMPORTANTLY to express a strong belief that based on evidence that they have witnessed, the child is well above average academically (with evidence). Better than expected, or above expected will not be enough. Remember, immediately before the results are made public to parents the Head-teacher has sight of the results and can appeal directly on behalf of your child if they believe the results do not reflect your ability. Bare that in mind too.

Good luck!


Last edited by StaceyT on Thu May 09, 2019 3:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 3:24 pm 
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Any letter from a head teacher to an appeal re a state grammar school needs to focus on academic ability - too often "personality" traits become more of a "he's an accomplished cricketer and musician and is a really nice polite boy", which would be an asset to any school, but not specifically a GS, where it is all about academic achievements.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 4:00 pm 
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Maybe you could share your appeal experiences on this thread https://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/forum/11plus/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=9205. I found it extremely helpful having all the experiences together in one place when we had to go to appeal and I am sure it will help future parents too.

Good luck.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 7:42 pm 
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Many thanks for posting, Stacey. Hope you won't mind if I add a few comments.

StaceyT wrote:
The panel comprises a lay person, two representatives of the school and a determining panel of three.
The panel consists of just the three people mentioned at the end. The others are not part of the panel.

I assume the lay person is the clerk, who takes notes of the proceedings and stays with the panel when they take their decision, but has no vote.

The school representative(s) are only allowed in the room when you are present.

Quote:
So that's six people in total who you face as you walk in: the lay person is on your left, the Wirral Grammar reps are on your right, and you are facing three panel members. It is quite unnerving, so you need to brace yourself for this.
Are you saying that the school representatives were already in the room when you entered? This would be a serious breach of the Appeals Code.

Taking the country as a whole, there's usually just one representative from the school. It's possible the second rep. might have been a 'trainee'.

6 people does sound daunting - and, quite apart from the numbers, they have the advantage over you of being in a familiar situation.

Quote:
The rep from Wirral then read out the reasons/ criteria for non acceptance and defers to the panel chairperson. They will then give you an opportunity to speak and present your case.
I assume there had already been a group hearing with all parents when the school presented its case for prejudice?
https://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appea ... -school#c1

Quote:
I prepared some notes in advance and rather than read a pre prepared speech I used the bullet points to ensure that I got my message across.
Excellent idea.

Quote:
I noticed that all 3 panel members rarely looked up and were busy making notes. The two reps from Wirral less so
Probably no reason for the school reps to take notes. They have no further part to play in the proceedings, unless they want to ask you a few questions about your case.

Quote:
in order to demonstrate this you will need to back it up. I would strongly suggest that evidence to support this needs to be provided to the panel in the written submissions several weeks in advance of the appeal.
Evidence is usually important. You should have been given a deadline by which it was to be submitted (perhaps a week or two before the hearing).

Quote:
I believe that my submission was very well received and indeed I was praised by the chair for my succinct presentation.
Well done! :)

Quote:
I mentioned the reasons I believed my son would both be an asset to the school
As KCG says above, this isn't relevant in an appeal.
The Code is quite clear. If the child is deemed qualified, then the panel must balance the parental reasons for wanting a place against the prejudice to the school.

Quote:
and why it was the preferred school for him
Correct!

Quote:
Mention of the ethos of the school and pastoral leadership is also recommended.
This can sound a bit woolly to an appeal panel. All schools have an ethos and pastoral leadership.

A recent Ofsted report might provide evidence of outstanding pastoral leadership, but I'm not so sure about something as vague as "ethos".

If questioned, some parents resort to saying "I read it in the prospectus" or "a friend of mine told me". Not very convincing!

Quote:
However, the overriding factor and ultimately the stumbling block for us, was not being able to back up the strong belief that my son had an off day during the test. As one of the panel members pointed out, the "mean" score for those attending WGB is in the 250 range, well in excess of 236, which is in excess of 233. Hand on heart, can you honestly say he will not struggle in the school environment from the off? And I believe that question to be genuinely levelled. So you need to have an honest and robust response. I floundered a little at that point, I have to admit.
Not very fair, in my view, to refer to the mean score. Anyone who achieved the cut-off score is, by definition, suitable.
The only issue should really have been about the gap between 233 and 236.

It's difficult to prove an 'off day'. All you can do is point to the strength of your alternative academic evidence.
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeal ... cation#b11

Quote:
The other strong recommendation I would advise is for your Head-teacher to write a letter to the panel on your son or daughter's behalf stating not only what personality traits they have, but MOST IMPORTANTLY to express a strong belief that based on evidence that they have witnessed, the child is well above average academically (with evidence). Better than expected, or above expected will not be enough.
Personality traits aren't relevant, but in the Q&As and the Appeals forum we are constantly stressing the importance of evidence to demonstrate well-above average ability.
https://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appea ... cation#b48

Quote:
Remember, immediately before the results are made public to parents the Head-teacher has sight of the results and can appeal directly on behalf of your child if they believe the results do not reflect your ability.
This sounds like the Independent Assessment Board. It's a non-statutory review, rather than an independent appeal.
https://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appea ... cation#b18

Quote:
Good luck!
And to you. Thanks again for the feedback. It would be helpful if you could also consider posting in the dedicated appeals thread BucksBornNBred has drawn attention to.

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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 6:59 am 
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Thanks for the detailed response and clarification Etienne.

To clarify: the representatives from Wirral Grammar School waited outside for us and accompanied us in. They were an ex-headmistress with 35 years of experience and the school treasurer, also a senior person. He put their case forward in the group hearing de brief earlier in the day (yes there was one). The ex headmistress delivered the case on behalf of the school in my individual hearing.

The treasurer took a lot of notes at my hearing, not sure why he would do that if he had no sway whatsoever? The grammar school is an academy, not sure if that makes any difference, and he has to balance the books, he stressed this on numerous occasions (school does not get funding for pupils admitted through appeals in the first year etc).

The ex-headmistress was the one who challenged on the academic side of things, and you may say it was unfair but I was thrown by the mean score being 250 or greater, so getting below the lowest acceptable pass rate is significantly below that mean score - and is that not a concern for us. I strongly recommend that regardless of the fairness or otherwise of that question, and I deem it to be a perfectly reasonable question to ask in the circumstances (but others may not) you need prepare for it and also prepare a robust response to it. She said that there were 6 lessons in a day and would he really be academically able to cope with the ongoing strains of that on a daily basis, was it really in his best interests etc?

The other thing I didn't stress in my earlier post was that the chairwoman at the group parents meeting stressed that regardless of budget and class size constraints, she and the other two panel members would make their decisions regardless and that they had already read the written submissions and that there were some cases of trauma and sickness that could have clearly impacted the children during that time. She did not need to say that, but she did. She also summarized my case incredibly well and I believe that she and the other panel members gave a very fair hearing.

One final thing: another of the panel stated that my child sounded like a perfect candidate for the nominated school, which is excelling and improving year on year. So you really need to have the "why I believe my child would benefit being at the grammar school" thoroughly researched and rehearsed.


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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 7:13 am 
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StaceyT wrote:
Thanks for the detailed response and clarification Etienne.

To clarify: the representatives from Wirral Grammar School waited outside for us and accompanied us in. They were an ex-headmistress with 35 years of experience and the school treasurer, also a senior person. He put their case forward in the group hearing de brief earlier in the day (yes there was one). The ex headmistress delivered the case on behalf of the school in my individual hearing.

The treasurer took a lot of notes at my hearing, not sure why he would do that if he had no sway whatsoever? The grammar school is an academy, not sure if that makes any difference, and he has to balance the books, he stressed this on numerous occasions (school does not get funding for pupils admitted through appeals in the first year etc).

The ex-headmistress was the one who challenged on the academic side of things, and you may say it was unfair but I was thrown by the mean score being 250 or greater, so getting below the lowest acceptable pass rate is significantly below that mean score - and is that not a concern for us. I strongly recommend that regardless of the fairness or otherwise of that question, and I deem it to be a perfectly reasonable question to ask in the circumstances (but others may not) you need prepare for it and also prepare a robust response to it. She said that there were 6 lessons in a day and would he really be academically able to cope with the ongoing strains of that on a daily basis, was it really in his best interests etc?

The other thing I didn't stress in my earlier post was that the chairwoman at the group parents meeting stressed that regardless of budget and class size constraints, she and the other two panel members would make their decisions regardless and that they had already read the written submissions and that there were some cases of trauma and sickness that could have clearly impacted the children during that time. She did not need to say that, but she did. She also summarized my case incredibly well and I believe that she and the other panel members gave a very fair hearing.

One final thing: another of the panel stated that my child sounded like a perfect candidate for the nominated school, which is excelling and improving year on year. So you really need to have the "why I believe my child would benefit being at the grammar school" thoroughly researched and rehearsed.


One reason for the school reps to take notes would be to note questions they are asked, with a view to working the required responses into the school's initial presentation. Obviously, though, this would apply more to the first stage than the second.

The panel members are the only people who make the decision as to whether an appeal should be upheld or not. The Clerk (your 'lay person', I assume) takes the official notes of the proceedings, which must be retained and can advise on points of procedure, legislation, etc, but does not take part in the decision making process.

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