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Displaying items by tag: appeals

Monday, 04 October 2010 17:34

School Admission Appeals Code

Last Updated August 2015

The School Admission Appeals Code (SAAC) came into operation in 2012 alongside a new  School Admissions Code (SAC). Minor amendments have been made to the latter several times since. These replaced earlier versions and both can be found on the Department for Education website here. The two fundamental changes are firstly that the Codes are now statutory, that is to say they carry the force of law, and secondly, that they are briefer, as government has tried to reduce the bureaucratic expansion of previous versions.

The bodies responsible for school admissions and appeals are called Admission Authorities (AA). The Local Authority (Kent or Medway Council) is the AA for all community or voluntary controlled schools in its area. Academies, Voluntary Aided and Foundation Schools and Free Schools are each the Admission Authority for themselves. 

Where Admission Authorities or Independent Appeal Panels (IAP) contravene the rules of the SAAC, parents have the right to complain. For community, voluntary controlled or voluntary aided schools, the correct path is via the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). For academies, complaints should be made to the Education Funding Agency. You will find further information on complaints by following the links to the two organisations, but essentially they will not recommend (LGO) or offer (EFA) a fresh appeal just because the AA or IAP has failed to follow the rules to the letter, the failure has to give rise to a possible injustice, i.e. a wrong decision by the Appeal Panel. Kent and Medway statistics for the two organisations give a sense of the relative likelihood of success.

The reduction in the appeals framework, has given AA and IAPs more flexibility in operating but in some cases, has introduced ambiguity in the rules. In others, there is no sanction for breaking the rules.

All Appeal Panel Administrators will send out a guidance leaflet in advance of the appeal to explain to parents the process and what to expect. These vary in quality.

You will find the main section of this website on secondary school appeals here; primary schools here

I have selected some key points from the Code below (my notes in italics). The Paragraph numbers refer to the paragraphs in the Code, although I have deleted some points I consider less relevant to parents.

Timetable

2.1 Admission authorities must set a timetable for organising and hearing appeals that:

a) includes a deadline for lodging appeals which allows appellants at least 20 school days from the date of notification that their application was unsuccessful to prepare and lodge their written appeal;

b) ensures that appellants receive at least 10 school days’ notice of their appeal hearing;

c) includes reasonable deadlines for appellants to submit additional evidence, for admission authorities to submit their evidence, and for the clerk to send appeal papers to the panel and parties;

d) ensures that decision letters are sent within five school days of the hearing wherever possible.

2.2 Admission authorities must publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February each year.

2.3 Admission authorities must ensure that appeals lodged by the appropriate deadlines are heard within the following timescales:

a) for applications made in the normal admissions round, appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals;

b) for late applications, appeals should be heard within 40 school days from the deadline for lodging appeals where possible, or within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged;

c) for applications to sixth forms:

i) where the offer of a place would have been conditional upon exam results, appeals must be heard within 30 school days of confirmation of those results;

ii) where the offer of a place would not have been conditional upon exam results, appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals;

d) for applications for in-year admissions, appeals must be heard within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged.

2.4 Any appeals submitted after the appropriate deadline must still be heard, in accordance with whatever timescale is set out in the timetable published by the admission authority.

Arrangements

2.5 When a local authority or an admission authority informs a parent of a decision to refuse their child a place at a school for which they have applied, it must include the reason why admission was refused; information about the right to appeal; the deadline for lodging an appeal and the contact details for making an appeal. Parents must be informed that, if they wish to appeal, they have to set out their grounds for appeal in writing. Admission authorities must not limit the grounds on which an appeal can be made.

2.8 Admission authorities must comply with reasonable requests from parents for information which they need to help them prepare their case for appeal.

2.15 Admission authorities must ensure that appeal hearings are held in private, and are conducted in the presence of all panel members and parties. One party must not be left alone with the panel in the absence of the other. (Note: this is too common an example of maladministration, leading to a fresh appeal).

The order of the hearing

2.16 The clerk must notify the parties of the order of the proceedings in advance of the hearing. A suggested order is set out below:

a) case for the admission authority;

b) questioning by appellant(s) and panel;

c) case for the appellant(s);

d) questioning by the admission authority and panel;

e) summing up by the admission authority;

f) summing up by the appellant(s).

From Previous Code: Panel members may ask questions at any time during the hearing to clarify what is being said or if they want to ascertain further information in order to reach a decision. However, they must not attempt to answer questions for the presenting officer or parents.

Multiple Appeals (most cases

2.18 Multiple appeals are when a number of appeals have been received in relation to the same school (this is the norm). Admission authorities must take all reasonable steps to ensure that multiple appeals for a school are heard by one panel with the same members. Where more than one panel has to consider appeals for the same school, each panel must make its own decision independently. A panel hearing multiple appeals must not make decisions on any of those appeals until all the appeals have been heard. (Note: There is still at least one Appeal Panel that substitutes individual panel members for others as the appeals proceed. This is not allowed. Only if two Panels are completely distinct and make their own decisions independently for a multiple appeal can this be allowed; however, in the one case I have been involved it led to decisions which left the school, parents and myself deeply dissatisfied)).

2.19 Multiple appeals may be heard either individually or in groups. Hearing multiple appeals individually means holding a series of consecutive appeal hearings. The panel must ensure that the presenting officer does not produce new evidence in later appeals that was not presented in earlier appeals as this would mean that appellants whose cases were heard earlier in the process would not have the opportunity to consider and respond to the new evidence. If material new evidence comes to light during the questioning of the presenting officer, the clerk must ensure that the panel considers what bearing that evidence may have on all appeals.

2.20 When multiple appeals are grouped (increasingly common for oversubscription situations with both non-selective and grammar schools in Kent, the norm in Medway), the presenting officer’s case is usually heard in the presence of all the appellants at the beginning of the hearing. The appellants’ cases are then heard individually without the presence of other appellants. Where there are a large number of appeals, holding grouped multiple appeals offers efficiencies. (Individual appeals then consider solely the appellants’ personal case and do not hear further evidence about oversubscription issues).

Guiding Principles

2.21 Appeal panels must operate according to the principles of natural justice. Those most directly relevant to appeals are:

a) members of the panel must not have a vested interest in the outcome, or any involvement in an earlier stage, of the proceedings;

b) each side must be given the opportunity to state their case without unreasonable interruption; and

c) written material and evidence must have been seen by all the parties (Too often ignored, producing possible maladministration and injustice. One Foundation that operates grammar school appeals, has regularly provided information to panellists about individual performance not shared with parents. Panel clerks must send the same package of materials to panellists, school Presenting Officer and parents enabling the latter to be sure that their whole case has been submitted. As in 2.15, the Presenting Officer can have no contact with panellists before, during or after the appeal unless parents are also present).

Notification of Decision

2.24 The panel must communicate the decision of each appeal, including the reasons for that decision, in writing to the appellant, the admission authority and the local authority. The clerk or chair must sign the decision letter and send it to the parties as soon as possible after the hearing but not later than five school days, unless there is good reason. In the case of applications outside the normal admissions round, the child must be admitted without unnecessary delay.

2.25 The panel must ensure that the decision is easily comprehensible so that the parties can understand the basis on which the decision was made. The decision letter must contain a summary of relevant factors that were raised by the parties and considered by the panel. It must also give clear reasons for the panel’s decision, including how, and why, any issues of fact or law were decided by the panel during the hearing (Kent County Council is increasingly producing mass produced inadequate decision letters, often not signed by the clerk. This is a matter of serious concern for the LGO, but the EFA tends to regard it as maladministration not indicative of injustice).

Notes and records of proceedings

2.26 The clerk must ensure an accurate record is taken of the points raised at the hearing, including the proceedings, attendance, voting and reasons for decisions.

2.27 Such notes and records will, in most cases, be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998, but admission authorities receiving requests under those Acts for information or data contained in such notes or records should obtain legal advice. (KCC is currently (2013) providing such information to parents on request, but other Panel Administrators will often refuse. It is worth challenging them on the basis of their decision if you are considering a complaint).

Reaching Decisions on Appeals

(Where there is an oversubscription issue – all cases, apart from those grammar schools where there are sufficient vacancies not to be put under pressure of space).

3.5 The panel must uphold the appeal where:

a) it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or had not been correctly and impartially applied, and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied (this is most often challenged where parents believe that other children have wrongly been given priority or have gained places by fraud), or

b) it finds that the admission of additional children would not prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources.

If the Panel decides there would be prejudice if additional children are admitted then:

3.8 The panel must balance the prejudice to the school against the appellant’s case for the child to be admitted to the school. It must take into account the appellant’s reasons for expressing a preference for the school, including what that school can offer the child that the allocated or other schools cannot. If the panel considers that the appellant’s case outweighs the prejudice to the school it must uphold the appeal (It is always a delicate balance deciding how much of your appeal should focus on the issue of oversubscription, rather than simply making the case for admission. Some parents simply ignore the first, whilst others go to town over it. I have considerable experience of how different panels react to the two strategies and so can maximise my clients’ chances of success).

Appeals for grammar schools

3.11 Designated grammar schools are permitted to select children for admission on the basis of academic ability and may leave places unfilled if there are insufficient eligible applicants14. Some admission authorities for grammar schools offer places to those who score highest, others set a pass mark and then apply oversubscription criteria to those applicants that reach the required standard.

3.12 (Only relevant for some grammar schools in Medway, none in Kent) Some admission authorities for grammar schools operate a ‘local review’ process to determine whether children who have, for example, failed the entrance test ought to be deemed as being of grammar school standard. The local review process does not replace a parent’s right of appeal against the refusal of a place at a school for which they have applied (KCC does NOT regard Headteacher Assessments as a Local Review, but as part of the assessment process.  As a result, there are no problems in Kent and so Kent parents need not consider this as an issue.  Sadly, misleading advice about the Code is posted on another website and although I have warned the moderators, they ignored my advice. As a direct result, some parents either pulled out of appeals they may have won, or else turned up and continue to turn up to appeals prepared for an issue that did not arise – See the section on Medway Grammar School Review and Appeals)

3.13 An appeal panel may be asked to consider an appeal where the appellant believes that the child did not perform at their best on the day of the entrance test. In such cases:

a) where a local review process has not been applied, the panel must only uphold the appeal if it is satisfied:

i) that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standards, for example, school reports giving Year 5/Year 6 SAT results or a letter of support from their current or previous school clearly indicating why the child is considered to be of grammar school ability; and

ii) where applicable, that the appellant’s arguments outweigh the admission authority’s case that admission of additional children would cause prejudice.

b) where a local review process has been followed, the panel must only consider whether each child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way and if there is no evidence that this has been done, the panel must follow the process in paragraph 3.13(a) above (This is only relvant in medway, see Medway Review).

3.14 In either case the panel must not devise its own methods to assess suitability for a grammar school place unrelated to the evidence provided for the hearing (the panel is not qualified make it own judgements about academic ability, but must reach decisions on the academic evidence provided. In the same way it is not able to make an assessment of written work submitted, nor interview the child, if present (not recommended) to determine their ability).

3.15 If a panel has to consider an appeal for an in-year applicant where no assessment has taken place, it must follow the process in paragraph 3.13(a) above.

Infant Class size appeals

It is very difficult to win an appeal where infant class sizes are an issue. See here for further details. 

4.4 The panel must consider all the following matters:

a) whether the admission of an additional child/additional children would breach the infant class size limit (30 children wth one class teacher);

b) whether the admission arrangements (including the area’s co-ordinated admission arrangements) complied with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code and Part 3 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998;

c) whether the admission arrangements were correctly and impartially applied in the case(s) in question; and

d) whether the decision to refuse admission was one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.

4.6 The panel may only uphold the appeal where:

a) it finds that the admission of additional children would not breach the infant class size limit; or

b) it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or were not correctly and impartially applied and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied; or

c) it decides that the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.

4.8 The panel must dismiss the appeal where:

a) it finds that the admission arrangements did comply with admissions law and were correctly and impartially applied; or

b) it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or were not correctly and impartially applied but that, if they had complied and had been correctly and impartially applied, the child would not have been offered a place;

and it finds that the decision to refuse admission was one which a reasonable admission authority could have made.

Monday, 04 October 2010 00:00

Kent Grammar School Appeals

Last updated April 2020: You will find a page about the effects on school appeals of the Coronavirus here.

 Coronavirus: Please note that this article takes no note of potential changes to the Appeal Procedure caused by the Coronovirus pandemic. For latest information go to: School Appeals and Coronavirus: Part 2

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I am afraid I have retired completely from my appeals advisory service, but hope this page offers some general help to assist you.  

You will find data for 2019 Appeals in Kent and Medway for 2019 entry here and more information about individual Kent schools and appeal numbers and success rates here

First piece of advice is – don’t panic. You will not get an earlier appeal or a better hearing by sending in your case early. If you are not ready, make sure you record your appeal by the closing date, using such words as “I am appealing for….... I will send in my detailed case when it is ready”. This enables you to take advice or plan your appeal without additional pressure (it is already stressful enough!), but make sure from the school website you know when the appeals are being heard and ensure your further information  is submitted in good time. If yours is one of the few academies that organises early appeals, such as Highsted and Borden grammar schools, it is essential to get the appeal lodged early, for although there is no statutory time limit for appealing, lodging a late appeal may find the school full after others have been heard.

As well as this section, I recommend that you read my general information page on school appeals.  Parents will  received an appeal form with their allocation decision letter in March

Background
Kent and Medway grammar school testing takes place in September. Many Kent children who have not initially passed the Kent Test are given a second chance through the Kent Headteacher assessment (HTA) process  in October (although this is by headteacher recommendation and parents are not made aware of whether their children are included).  It is not always advantageous to have gone  down this route for, if unsuccessful, the Report of the HTA is presented to any appeal panel, and can prove counterproductive. Medway parents are offered a Review of any non selective decision in November, but are advised to read the Review section of this website before doing so. You will find a fuller explanation of the two processes through the links. These stages take place before the selective decision is confirmed.

In any case, parents need to be aware that if their child is unsuccessful in the test, or in HTA or Medway Review, there is no right to appeal until after school allocation, 1st March (for 2020 entry). You cannot appeal against a non selective decision in general and your right to appeal is to a particular school which has not offered your child a place. Whilst appeals usually begin in April/May, some may not be heard until late June.

There is a basic division between grammar schools run by the county (community schools and voluntary controlled) and the academies, foundation and voluntary aided schools that form the majority. County run grammar schools use KCC's own Appeals service run independently of the education department. The other schools and academies each have their own approach to appeals: some using a county independent appeal panel; others engaging an independent panel administrator to run appeals for them; the remainder (a small minority) choosing their own appeal clerk and panel members. Some wish to admit additional pupils, others resist strongly. These produce a wide range of success rates, both from county to county and for individual schools within counties. You will find appeal history and further information for each individual school here. I advise you, in the case of academies, foundation or VA schools who use an administrator or provide their own Independent Appeal Panel, to contact the school which may be willing to offer the school perspective. Some grammar schools are regularly oversubscribed with successful candidates, particularly in West Kent. If you are deprived of a place on this basis, you still have the right to appeal.

Parents can only appeal to a school they have named on the application form, so choice of schools remains critical. However, in Kent if you choose not to apply for a particular grammar school, you still have the right to apply using the In Year Admission Process after the closing date for acceptance of offers (usually late March) and if turned down because your child has not taken the test (in which case they will be asked to sit it), or has not passed the test, or the school is full, you can appeal. However, this route carries additional risk if the school is likely to be full after the normal round of appeals. 

What follows is somewhat rambling, as there is no foolproof guide to winning appeals and different points will carry weight with different individual panels. Remember that an Appeal Panel provided by KCC will be drawn from a pool of around a hundred volunteers. All are required to be trained, but in the appeal room each will have their own rules. 

General
There are four main situations with regard to grammar school appeals:

1) The child has not been found selective and there are spaces available

2) The child has not been found selective  and the school is full.

3) The child has been found selective and the school is full;

4) The school is 'super selective'  and the child has not reached this year's cut off score, or has lost out on distance grounds

In all cases you should explain (briefly) why you are appealing for the particular school. This will be based on knowledge, including a visit to the school, and you can expect to be asked about this. Do not simply rely on quoting from the Prospectus! In the first two cases, your main task is to show your child is of grammar school ability (see below). In the other two, as well as confirming ability, you need to focus on your child's qualities and what they can bring to the school. 

It is my personal view that if the school is full you should not spend time focusing on why it can admit additional pupils; the Panel will do that themselves and have the expertise to ask the right questions. Your task is to show why your child 'needs' to be at that school. 

I am strongly of the view that an appeal letter should not be of more than a page and a half, although the style is irrelevant. Appeal Panels are solely interested in relevant content, so make it easy for them.  There is no purpose in enclosing lots of supporting letters showing what a good person your child is at their various sports and activities. A paragraph to cover these is usually sufficient and I have tended to recommend no more than one such letter, many families have none and will not be disadvantaged.

Remember, the Panel may have many cases to consider, and no more than half an hour for any one. Your task in that short time is to convince the panel your child is right for the school, they will not thank you for large amounts of extraneous documents.

(1 & 2) The Case
I am often asked what scores are likely to be successful in a grammar school appeal. This is an impossible question to answer and Appeal Panels will wish to take other factors into account. These may include
  • what evidence do you have to demonstrate that your child is of grammar school ability (essential);
  • what special circumstances do you have that will convince a panel that your child underperformed at the Kent Test;
  • be aware of whether the school is oversubscribed or does it need or want additional pupils;
  • was there a Head Teacher Assessment. What did it say;
  • what support is forthcoming from the primary school;
  • does your child have Special Education Needs? Different Panels will have their own views on this one. 

You are most unlikely to achieve success at a Kent appeal if no score is above the 110 of 2020 entry (but look at success rates; there may be one or two where you could stand a chance with strong evidence). 

Central to any successful appeal on grounds of a non-selective assessment by the Local Authority is EVIDENCE  that the child is of grammar school ability. Without it you are almost certainly wasting your time and that of the Panel of volunteers who hear your appeal.

Appeal Panels will expect to see:
  • a Headteacher Letter of academic support for the child (telling the Panel that he or she is a lovely person, kind to animals, engages in sports or other extra-curricular activities etc, is of limited value);
  • a recent positive school Report
  • probably through one of the above, or in addition, evidence of school assessments such as CATs, SAT pre-tests, National Curriculum Levels, and alternatives indicating a grammar school performance.

Private, paid for assessments,  however strong as alternatives, rarely carry weight; it is the school view that is regarded as objective and fair (usually, although a Panel that knows the local scene may also know their schools!), with letters from Private Schools that have taken your child's fees to help them succeed sometimes being treated according to Panel preferences. Letters from tutors are often taken as negatives (if your child cannot succeed with tutoring, they may not be deemed suitable for grammar school) 

Other possible relevant factors that parents may put forward include

  •  the selection panel was missing information which can lead to a different decision – e.g. medical condition or family circumstances not reported which affected the child's performance, but can be demonstrated;
  •  information provided was incorrect – you have the right to see all relevant documentation.

You may also succeed if none of these apply but marks are near the cut off and you find a sympathetic appeal panel. If none of the above apply, your chances are low; so plan an alternative route for your child’s secondary education – although each year I am delighted to hear of successful appeals which originally looked unpromising.

I am regularly asked what the significance of particular medical conditions or family circumstances will be. Again impossible to answer. Whatever you put forward, the Appeal Panel will first need to be convinced that the child is of grammar school ability from the evidence you are able to supply. The extenuating circumstances you supply then allow the Panel to understand if and why the child underperformed at the Kent Test. Each Panel will have its own view on what is a valid case, which may well vary according to the pressure on places, so you can but try.  Death or illness of relatives or pets occur with astonishing regularity, so don't place too much faith in these.  

(3 & 4) The Case
There is no formula for winning appeals, the key points are to emphasis the qualities of your child and why they need to be at that particular school. Over the years I have seen many different types of appeal win through. 

Kent Grammar Schools

At all Kent grammar school appeals against a non-selective decision, the Kent test scores and any HTA report will be distributed to the Panel and parents. This also has the effect of eliminating false parental claims about the results. Some parents have not seen the HTA document before, so make sure you ask to see it before writing your appeal, as this is likely to have an influence on your case.

In most cases, the Panel will also be told the school to which you were allocated on 1st March. This presents a problem for some parents of children who have passed the Kent Test making multiple applications to grammar schools. Where the school is non-super selective, if you are awarded a grammar school lower on your list, the Panel may decide that because the school is oversubscribed your needs have already been met by the lower school, and give preference to those without a grammar school. In at least one area, where the panel tends to be drawn from a small group of panellists, they see appeals from parents who have put down only one grammar school to benefit from this policy. However, the panel has become wise and will not look on these as a priority, sometimes leaving the child without a grammar school. Life can become difficult!

There are number of websites and books offering advice on how to succeed at appeal. Most of these offer general advice, not tailored to specific schools or local authorities, and so are of limited value. 

A good website for general information on admissions and appeals is: eleven plus exams. However, you need to treat the contributions with caution. It is  Buckinghamshire based but, whilst the school appeal advice varies considerably from the many varieties in Kent, it can be very helpful. There is also a lot of forum discussion about West Kent issues, often very different from those in the rest of the county. 

Monday, 04 October 2010 00:00

Secondary School Appeals

Last updated: April 2020. You will find a page on the effects on school appeals of the Coronavirus here.

You will find further information, comment and advice in the page relating to specific types of appeal: Kent grammar schools; Medway grammar school review and appeal; oversubscription appeals; and primary school appeals. A look at key points of the School Admissions Appeals Code also contains further advice and information.  

You will find data for 2019 Appeals in Kent and Medway entry here and more information about individual Kent schools here

I am afraid I have completely retired from offering individual appeals advice. 

All school appeals are required to follow the mandatory School Admissions Appeals Code.

Parents have the right to appeal against any decision not to offer a school place, and that decision must be in writing and contain information on how to appeal.  Whilst there is no time limit on when an appeal can be lodged,  it is normally best to meet the official closing dates, otherwise parents may find the schools their appeal is heard late and the school has filled at the time of the main appeals.

I regularly receive a number of enquiries about oversubscription appeals at the beginning of March when decisions arrive. These arise where the school (it may be non-selective or grammar) is full after the main allocation of places. 

In all cases, it is important that you notify the Admission Authority (which is the Local Authority in the case of Community and Voluntary Controlled Schools, otherwise it is the school or academy) that you are appealing, so that you are in the lists before the closing date for appeals. I advise many parents to put in a holding appeal (simply writing "I am appealing for a place for my child (name) at (name) school. A more detailed letter will follow" on the form you are sent with your decision letter, which means you do not need to submit full details by deadline day). You can then leave submitting a detailed letter until you have a clearer picture of the situation and you can also find out by how much you missed out on a place (for example distance) from the school. 

For non-selective schools, or oversubscribed grammar schools where your child passed the Kent or Medway Test, you should also apply to go on the waiting list. Arrangements for both processes are sent with your allocation letter on National Allocation Day.

In any case, DO NOT PANIC. Do not send off something immediately. It may damage your case when the appeal is finally heard and, however angry you are with the allocation, you won't gain any advantage or have your case heard early.  It is best to wait until you are ready with all your supporting evidence and then send it in together. It is good practice to get all material there at least ten days before the appeals start for your school, to ensure that papers can be distributed to the panellists. Few appeals are heard before May but Admission Authorities must publish their appeal timetable on their website. No Appeal Panel will discriminate against you if you deliver supplementary material after the official closing date for appeals, although administrators often find it convenient and may hassle you. If you don’t register your appeal until after this date you may find your appeal is heard after the main batch, when it may be more difficult to win an appeal if there is no room.

This right includes appeals against a decision not to be offered a place at sixth form, although the student themselves can also appeal in such cases.

In Kent and Medway, appeals are heard before an Independent Appeal Panel comprising three panellists (except at Simon Langton Boys Grammar that normally uses five panellists). These are independent of the school and the Local Authority, but are appointed by the Admission Authority. All panellists are required to have been trained. An Appeal Panel has to have at least one Advisory Member and one Lay Member. An Advisory Member has experience in education, or is acquainted with educational conditions in the area, or is the parent of a registered child at a school. A Lay Member does not have personal experience in the management or provision of education in any school, but may be a school governor or have other voluntary experience. As you can see, appeal panellists do not initially have to have great knowledge of the education system, but soon acquire expertise in the role and in the different situations they may be faced with. All are volunteers and in my experience the great majority carry out an effective job. 

Chances of success at appeal vary widely; last year the number of successful appeals at individual Kent grammar schools varied from 0 to 75, and for non selective schools from 0 to 51. You will find some more detail about appeal outcomes for 2019 here.  These figures confirm that whilst Panels are trained to follow the mandatory Code of Practice, they may adapt their decision to local circumstances, such as the pressure on places. 

For non selective and primary schools, appeals are against a decision not to admit the child because the school is full. 

For grammar schools, there are three types of appeal:
1) Against a decision that the child has been found non selective, although there are still places in the school;
2) Against a decision that the child has been found non-selective and the school is full;
3) Against a decision that the child has been found selective but the school is full. 

Appeal Panels can be organised in a variety of ways. All community  and voluntary controlled schools in Kent and Medway will use Panels selected and trained by the Local Authority, but independent of the Education Department. The LA also provides clerks to administer the process and will manage all paperwork. 

Academies, Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools in Kent may also use the services of Local Authority Panels, but those in Kent or Medway have three alternative choices:

  1. There are several Independent Appeal Panel Administrators operating in the area who offer services to a number of schools. These will recruit their own appeal Panel members and provide Independent Clerks. 
  2. A few schools use their own independent clerk to organise appeals and may recruit their own Independent panellists.
  3. There are now a couple of organisations offering to run appeals for schools, in one case even offering to provide the school representative at the appeal! Statistics for these panels suggest a much lower rate of success. 


In my experience, Panels organised by the Local Authorities or Independent Panel Administrators managing appeals at a group of schools are generally most independent.

Each Panel administrator should provide comprehensive documentation in advance setting out the appeal process, so that parents know what procedure is to be followed.

An increasing number of schools that are oversubscribed in both Kent and Medway operate a group appeal. At a group appeal, all appealing parents are invited to hear the Admission Authority case for not admitting additional pupils in the presence of the Independent Appeal Panel, and to ask questions. The Appeal Panel can then make a decision on how many additional children should be admitted (if any), so that individual appeals can focus on the parental case, without the issues of fullness being considered further at every appeal. No individual case or circumstances are considered at the group stage. 

I believe this is an effective way of managing oversubscription appeals, but can produce fireworks or a difficult meeting that requires good chairmanship. Where a group appeal is not used, each individual hearing considers evidence on both the fullness of the school and the case for the individual child.

Monday, 04 October 2010 00:00

Review and Appeal for Medway Grammar Schools

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Last Revised April 2020: You will find a page on the possible effects on school appeals of the Coronavirus here.

Review

You will find data for 2019 Appeals in Kent and Medway entryhere and more information including oversubscription and appeal statistics for individual Medway schools here. There is more general advice on grammar school appeals at the Kent Grammar School Appeal page

If your child is unsuccessful in the Medway tests you are entitled to apply for a Review of the decision, designed to select another 2% of children. However, for 2020 admission it once again was well below this level for Medway children, at 0.43% (4 out of 69 boys and 11 out of 78 girls successful) underlining both the failure of the process and the bias towards girls (detailed data to be published shortly).  For 2019 admission it reached another  new low at 0.12% of the cohort (2 out of 78 Medway boys who went to Review and 2 out of 81 girls, no private school or out of Medway children out of 26), details here. For 2017 it was 0.37%, (4 out of 74 boys and 8 out of 87 girls). You will find overall figures for 2017 here ), bringing the total up to a pass rate of 22.8% against a target of 25%. For 2018 entry, this process identified just a further 12 successful Medway children (only 0.37%) out of a total of 161 applicants  for Review, and for 2017 it was 24 out of 148.  

Interpretation of current legislation is in a mess, and if you apply for a Review and are unsuccessful, the rules say you can only have your case considered (even though you have a right to be heard!) by an Independent Appeal Panel if you can show the Review process was not fair, objective or consistent. You will find the legal background at Code of Practice for School Appeals, paras 3.12 and 3.13. I do not know how parents can weigh up which option to choose on this reading!  However, I attempt to summarise the situation below that may be helpful.

The Review procedure for 2020 entry was as follows. Review Panels, each comprising two teachers from different schools, looked at three pieces of work from each of English, mathematics and science submitted by the primary schools (usually but not always within books), together with standardised test results (including Key Stage 1) taken in the schools and a grammar/non selective recommendation from the primary school (there is no indication on the Panel decision sheet of how this information was used). The Panel were not given any other information although parents are asked to complete a form (which panellists were instructed to ignore) giving their reasons for asking for a Review.  Each Panel then made a decision based on the work of the children they were reviewing and the total of successful reviews for Medway state school children turned out to be 0.43 % well below the planned 2% which has not been reached for many years. There were three successes for Kent children and none for private or other out of Medway school children.

The problems are compounded by the Review application Form R1 that invites parents to give their reasons for requesting a Review. It is also made clear that  parents should not send in information or documentation additional to their written statement (this cuts out medical evidence or other special reasons for underperformance, including prolonged absence from school which would have an effect on quality of work submitted).  However, the form also states that decisions will be based on the evidence supplied by the school, implying (confirming) that these parental reasons will be ignored. Further the primary school headteacher is forbidden to write letters of support or to provide information, other than KS1 results, Year 5  levels and a high/grammar recommendation. In 2008, following a complaint by me, the ombudsman criticised this process as the combination of the two procedures denies parents any opportunity to put forward their case, which flies in the face of natural justice. However, in a 2010 complaint the Ombudsman found this contradiction was reasonable!

I have received many enquiries on the value of the words on the R1 Review Request form. All I can get from Medway Council is that:

Those carrying out the Review process should see the parental statement (and no more), just to place the academic evidence in context. The review panel will (then) make their decision based on a consideration of the academic evidence provided by the school. 

 This moves us no further forward as if parents have reasons for underperformance, no Review Panel should/could accept these without evidence that would be supplied by additional materials. In any case, the Panel decision is based (solely?) on academic evidence supplied by the school. I am very disappointed that Medway Council is unable to give proper guidance to parents on the value of their statement on Form R1, preferring to leave them in confusion. My own view is that although Panels are not be able to take the statements into consideration, parents should put reasons for underperformance down as it is often relevant for appeals (see below). Do not mention specific schools. 

 

 Consideration of the Review Process at Appeal
 In all cases, if the child has been unsuccessful at Review, the school presents the Review results sheet (R2B) to the Independent Appeal Panel. It also provides the R1 Form, when an unhelpful comment by parents, written in good faith, can damage your appeal case. There is also an R2(A) which is presented, containing the information (above) submitted by the headteacher.

 At an Appeal, parents have the right to present whatever additional information they wish, to try and persuade the Panel that their child is of a grammar school standard. This is likely to include reasons why the child underperformed and alternative evidence of his or her grammar school ability. However, the statutory Code of Practice states that where a Review has taken place, the only grounds for appeal are that the Review was not fair, objective or consistent. In other words, according to the rules, panels cannot consider alternative evidence that the child is of a grammar school standard, or that there were reasons for underperformance on the day, unless they are satisfied that the Review process was unfair (but see below) 

 The real problem about Review often comes at appeal, as Appeal Panels for the different schools adopt different interpretations of the Code, sometimes adopting different views in different years.

 At Holcombe, the whole 2018 process was a shambles as explained first here, and finally here. There was just one success in 2019 

Historically, clients of mine  persuaded the Panels at Sir Joseph Williamson's over the years that the Medway Reviews were unfair – I believe my arguments had been decisive in some years, and so parents did have their academic cases considered. However, in 2018 no appeals for boys were upheld for boys who had not been found successful in Test or Review, and in 2019 just three, so I suspect it was unlikely that any of those going to Review saw appeals upheld. Details here

The number of children, initially non selective, who were offered places at Rochester Grammar or Rainham Mark is negligible (for 2018 and 2019 entry it was none), the fairness of the Review process providing an initial filter.

Panels at Fort Pitt  for 2016 to 2020 entry the school was heavily over subscribed so it was no surprise it was considered fair.

The Chatham Grammar (School for Girls) Admission Panel has not historically taken any notice of the Review outcome, including up to 2019. i see no reason why they would change. 

Summary of Issues and Strategies for Review Process

  • If you go for Review and are unsuccessful, an assessment of your child’s work is sent to the appeal panel. I believe that because markers want to create clear water between those who are found selective and those who are not, Review reports are often unduly harsh and have a negative effect on Panels.
  • The Admissions brochure, like the parental advice, is ambiguous on the issue of whether parental reasons are taken into account, in spite of being criticised by the Ombudsman who considers parents should have the right to have their reasons presented to the Review Panel Review. The reality is, they are not, but can surface at appeal and count against you. 
  • The above analysis by school  suggests you should go for Review if you are considering a place at Chatham Girls. For Rainham Mark and Rochester,  chances of a successful appeal if your child is initially unsuccessful are usually slim (practically nil), and so I am unable to advise you which decision to take. For Holcombe I have no idea what is to come. 
  • For Fort Pitt and the Maths School, it may be dependent  on the level of oversubscription - Fort Pitt has found it fair in the past few years ;  the Math unfair for some even though oversubscribed but none in 2018 and unlikely in 2019.  
  • If you go for Review and are unsuccessful, an assessment of your child’s work is sent to the appeal panel. I believe that because markers want to create clear water between those who are found selective and those who are not, Review reports are often unduly harsh and have a negative effect on Panels.
  •  I believe that the process is inherently flawed and should be able to be successfully challenged - but it is increasingly difficult! The reality is that if an Appeal Panel is determined to find the process fair, it is very difficult to budge it.  
 

Warning on Medway School Admissions

Schools are not allowed to know the position you have placed them on the Application Form when drawing up rankings of children to determine who is awarded a place. However, for 2014 entry the whole application form,including reasons for applying for a school was sent to Admission Authorities to be provided as evidence for appeal panels when considering appeals. This practice has continued for 2015 admission and subsequently, although I regard it as a seriously retrograde step placing parents in an invidious position regarding their choice of schools. It is certainly wrong according to the spirit, if not the letter, of the mandatory School Admissions Code,that does not allow schools to know in which order the parents have placed them on the form for admission purposes.  However, I am told it is legal and other Authorities (not Kent) also use it when parents appeal for a school place in March, It is possible that some schools which are their own admission authorities (including academies) may choose not to present the information to Independent Appeal Panels, but for 2016 appeals nearly all did. If you are likely to have to appeal, you therefore now have to consider order of preference on the Common Application Form much  more carefully than in previous years, as the school and appeal panel will now see all your preferences and be entitled to ask the reason for them.

Further, there is a section for you to provide the reason for applying to each school separately on the Form.  This used to be confidential to the school applied for and continues to be so, unless you appeal, when as it is on the common application form it is shared with all schools you are appealing to. Obviously if you put down strong reasons for applying to one school it may reflect badly on you if appealing for another! My advice is therefore clear. Do not put any entry in this section, unless you are applying on health grounds (or similar) on which you consider your child needs to attend a particular school, in which case you would also need to provide strong medical evidence to substantiate your claim. Otherwise, reasons are completely ignored for allocating places in the admission procedure as they do not form part of the criteria or rules by which places are allocated.

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