Updated 2 May 2014, incorporating data from item above.
Medway Council appears 'delighted' with the continued fall in the percentage of children being offered their first choice Medway school, more than 2% down on 2013, and more than 6% down on three years ago. Unfortunately, the glowing and very positive Council Press Release is once again vague on the figures, the full release being produced below. Up until 2011, full percentages and comparisons with previous years were produced but, given the annual decline ever since, the Council appears to have made a policy decision to try and hide the reality of the problem. The portfolio holder for Children's Services is quoted as being"delighted to see so many families in Medway have been offered a place at one of their named schools and such a high number at their first choice school".
More worrying for too many parents is the inexorable rise in the number of children offered none of their choices and being allocated places by the Local Authority.
A major reason for the fall in first choices being offered is not, as often stated in the media, that parents are chasing the best schools, but rather they are trying any way to avoid those with the worst reputations, as explained in my more detailed analysis above. With the OFSTED outcomes of Medway primary schools continuing to plummet this is becoming more and more difficult year on year......
Kent and Medway primary school parents have now received details of Reception Class allocations, or where appropriate those for Junior Schools, together with details of how to apply to go on a waiting list or to appeal. The parallel article for Medway parents is immediately below this one.
The headline figures are that:
- The number of children allocated places is up by 3.6% over 2013 to 17,097.
- The proportion of children offered a school named on their application form, at 95.34% is the second highest in the past four years and beyond.
- The number of children offered their first school, at 14516 is the highest ever, but the proportion has fallen slightly to 84.90%
- The number of disappointed children offered no school of their choice has risen to 796, but is a lower proportion of the total than in 2012 or 2011. .....
Reports on the national scene have been very grim in places, and Kent appears to be far better placed than many. In spite of the twin repeated observations on this website that (a) I do not give advice to families living outside Kent and Medway (also excluding London Boroughs that were part of Kent pre-1965) and (b) very few Primary Appeals can be successful because of Infant Class legislation (see below), I have had enquiries from desperate families across the country in: Bexley, Birmingham, Brighton, Bromley, Cornwall, Hertfordshire and Lancashire, but sadly am unable to assist.
Also below, I reproduce the statistics relating to appeal outcomes in Kent and Medway last year. Headline is that where Infant Class Legislation applies, just 18 out of 546 appeals were successful, although 132 families dropped out of the process before the appeals was heard, many after seeing the appeal paperwork.
Early problems are emerging at Tunbridge Wells, where the 23 extra places at the Wells Free School don't even compensate for last year's reduction of 30 at Claremont Primary (cut off distance just 160 yards), and the problems with Bishops Down reducing from an intake of 60 to one of 30, a decision of governors, but a situation badly handled by KCC. With 37 siblings applying, seven of these have not been offered places. I will have the full picture when I see the relevant data, from about the middle of May. A comment below refers to one parent's problem.
The tables further down this article show the overall 2013 Reception Class and Junior School Appeal outcomes for Kent and Medway primary schools who used KCC or Medway Council Appeal Panels (the large majority). Foundation, Free, and Voluntary Aided schools, together with academies are able to use Independent Appeal Panels from other providers or, in the case of Kent schools can also buy into KCC organised Panels. I do not have data for other primary appeal panels, merely a sense that they operate to a similar or even tougher standard.
Appeals for Reception classes in infant and primary schools are governed by Infant Class Legislation (ICL), but in any case are only needed if the school is oversubscribed, when some applicants will have been turned down. Unless the school is full, no child can be rejected. You will find more information about primary school appeals here. The bottom line is that in Kent, just 3.5% of Reception Class appeals were upheld where Infant Class Legislation applies, in Medway where ICL applies in all but two schools, the proportion is 4.5%.
For Junior Schools in Kent, where ICL does not apply, the figures are much more positive, with 31% of appeals being successful. In Medway both appeals were successful!.....
Parents of Kent primary aged children looking to enter school in September, or transfer from Infant to Junior schools have now received a letter informing them of the allocated school. All families who have not been offered their first choice school have also been told how to apply for waiting lists or submit an appeal.
The figures below show the outcome of a major planning operation by KCC following last year's primary school places crisis, producing the best figures for three years.At the time of writing, I am not aware of any local difficulties.
The headline is: the highest number and proportion of children being offered their first choice for three years; and the lowest number and proportion being allocated a place by Kent County Council after being offered no school of their choice - a fall of 20% over 2012. These very good figures are in spite of a steady rise in the number of primary aged children coming through the system. However there are still 661 children without a school of their choice. Kent and Medway parents who wish to seek my advice may like to consider using my Telephone Consultation to discuss options, so feel free to send me details of your situation and I will let you know if I have practical advice to offer. You will see from my Primary Appeals Information page, that sadly, for most schools chances of success at appeal are very unlikely.
LATEST (13/7): Kent County Council had its debate on the e-petition submitted by Bearsted parents on Thursday. The debate can be found in full at: http://www.kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/82135, 3 hours and five minutes into the meeting. There was unanimous praise for the leaders of the campaign (unique in my experience), although there was much discussion on county wide issues. KCC takes some pride in its place forecasting, although I would challenge that confidence, as we continue to see too many predictable crises in provision. Three important outcomes. The decision by the governors of St John's to expand to two forms of entry in September 2013, and to provide an additional Year One class for those children currently disappointed, will need to go out for consultation, and Department for Education approval, although there is a presumption in the School Admissions Code of Practice that such expansion will be approved. There will not be additional provision at St John's during the course of the academic year 2012-2013, so those children who have lost out this time round, will have to wait until September 2013, to amply to transfer into Year One. The problem for 2012 entry has been exacerbated by the large number of siblings, and this ought to be a factor tracked in the future.
Ther have been similar problems in the Kings Hill area of West Malling, and it appears this campagin has inspired parents there to set off on a similar trail. You will find a facebook page at: http://workingpartykingshill.blogspot.co.uk/.
Kent County Council has issued the following press release: "Primary school expansion in Grove Green brings welcome news to local parents......
I now have the data for appeals for those primary and secondary schools in Kent, whose appeals were heard by an Independent Appeal Panel organised by KCC. In previous years I have had the data for all schools at this time, but figures for the 26 secondary schools who organise their own appeals will not be available until later in the year. I do not publish school by school data here, as it varies so much year on year, depending on the pressure on places, the decision of the admission authority (in most cases the school) as to how hard to resist the appeal and the make up of the panels. However, I do identify below where there are particular trends.
2011 Secondary Appeal Numbers
|Appeals Heard||Appeals Upheld||% Upheld|
|Foundation & Voluntary Aided Grammar Schools||542||186||34|
|Community Grammar Schools||237||101||42|
|Totla Grammar Schools||779||287||36|
|Non Selective Schools||186||129||69|
INFANT CLASS LEGISLATION
The previous Labour government honoured an election pledge to reduce all Infant classes to 30 children by introducing what is called Infant Class Legislation that banned any class of over 30, except in certain very specific circumstances. Although the most recent Codes of Practice removed the sanctions for schools to keep to this legal requirement, it is rare that they are broken except in certain very specific circumstances. The rules are laid down in the School Admissions Code (SAC) and the School Admission Appeals Code (SAAC), both of which carry the force of law. The rules also apply to Academies.
Parents often puzzle over why they are allowed to appeal and informed of their rights so to do, when they actually stand no chance of success. Sadly, that is the way it is.
You will find a recent news item on this subject here.
The rules for Admissions.
Neither the school nor the Local Authority can offer more places than allowed by the Planned Admission Number, which you will find in the school or Local Authority Prospectus, except in very limited circumstances. SAC states:
2.61 The law does not require a child to start school until the start of the term following their fifth birthday. The date compulsory school age is reached is determined by dates set by the Secretary of State for the autumn, spring and summer terms. These are 31 August, 31 December and 31 March.
2.62 Infant classes (i.e. those where the majority of children will reach the age of 5, 6, or 7 during the school year) must not contain more than 30 pupils with a single school teacher. While admission can be refused on normal prejudice grounds once an admission number of lower than 30 (or multiples of 30) has been reached, admission must be refused on “infant class-size prejudice” grounds where the published admission number allows for classes of 30, and the school would have to take ‘qualifying’ measures to keep to the statutory class size limit if more children were admitted, e.g. employ another teacher.
2.63 The class size legislation makes allowance for the entry of an additional child in very limited circumstances where not to admit the child would be prejudicial to his or her interests (‘excepted pupils’). However, every effort must be made to keep over large classes to a minimum. These circumstances are where:
a) children with statements of special educational needs are admitted to the school outside the normal admissions round;
b) children move into the area outside the normal admissions round for whom there is no other available school within reasonable distance (admission authorities must check with local authorities before determining that a child falls into this category);
c) children admitted, after initial allocation of places on the local offer date, because the person responsible for making the original decision recognises that an error was made in implementing the school’s admission arrangements and that a place ought to have been offered;
d) children in care admitted outside the normal admissions round;
e) children admitted where an independent appeal panel upholds an appeal on the grounds that the child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented, and/or the admission authority’s decision to refuse a place was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case;
f) children are registered pupils at special schools and by arrangement with another school which is not a special school, receive part of their education at that other school;
g) children with special education needs who are registered pupils at a school which is not a special school and are normally educated in a special educational needs unit attached to that school, and attend, an infant class in the school (i.e. not in the unit), where this has been deemed as beneficial to the child.
2.64 Except in the case of f) and g), the child will remain an exception for any time they spend in an infant class at the mainstream school or outside the special educational needs unit. In all other circumstances the child will only remain an exception for the remainder of the school year in which they were admitted. Measures must be taken for the following year to ensure that the class falls within the infant class size limit.
The Rules for Appeals
Here SAAC states:
3.19 Where a child has been refused admission to a school on infant class size prejudice grounds, an appeal panel can only offer a place to a child where it is satisfied that either
a) the child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented;
b) the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had not been contrary to mandatory provisions in the School Admissions Code and the SSFA 1998; and/or
c) the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.
The third of these cases is usually the one which parents seek to challenge and although it appears reasonably mild, it actually states that the appeal can only be upheld if the admission authority (school or Local Authority) could have gone outside the rules for admission (oversubscription criteria) for the child in question. This is exceedingly rare and relates back to the rules for admission. Many parents seek to challenge the rules themselves, on the grounds that they have a very powerful case for being admitted to that school and not the one they have been allocated and this should have taken priority over the rules, but this is not a valid argument.
The Code wants to leave Appeal Panel members in no doubt as to what 3.19 (b) means and goes on to clarify:
3.25 In order for a panel to determine that an admission authority’s decision to refuse admission was unreasonable, it will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the particular child was “perverse in the light of the admission arrangements" i.e. it was “beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker” or “a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it
Infant Class legislation does not apply only when there is a Planned Admission number of a multiple of 30. Some primary schools combine two different age groups into a class of 30. This can happen when the Planned Admission number is 15, or 20 or a multiple of these. The Code also covers these cases. Other arrangements include smaller reception classes feeding into classes of 30 in Years One and Two. Again the Code covers this case:
3.29 The panel must also consider whether admission of an additional child would cause future infant class size prejudice e.g. a school publishes an admission number of 60, admitting 20 children to three reception classes, which become two classes of 30 children in Years 1 and 2. Admission of a 61st child to reception would lead to one of the Year 1 classes exceeding the infant class size limit unless the school takes remedial measures, such as recruiting an additional teacher. Therefore there would be infant class size prejudice.
Possible reasons for appeal:
(1)you have exceptional circumstances - and if you don't know if your circumstances are exceptional, they almost certainly aren't! Those unlikely to be exceptional include some heart rending cases of difficulty of travel, poor schools allocated, parental commitments, and children heading off in different directions. None of these are likely to be accepted as reasons for AppealPanels to break the rules they are bound to follow.
(2) A second possibility is where Infant Class Legislation does not apply, for example when instead of the normal class size of 30 children, the intake is not a multiple of 10 or 15 (these two numbers allow mixed age classes of 30).
(3) Some church schools where the oversubscriptiuon rules have been loosely drawn up, and contain flaws.
(4) a mistake has been made and a child who is lower down the preference list than you, has been offered a place.
(5) A family has been offered a place on fraudulent evidence. This can be withdrawn, creating a vacant space.
65) a very small number of academies may be prepared to break the rules!
DON'T FORGET TO PUT YOUR NAME ON THE WAITING LIST OF YOUR PREFERRED SCHOOLS.