This has been a particularly busy admission season for me, primarily because the change in structure and scoring pattern of the Kent Test have considerably increased uncertainty about chances of access to super selective schools and appeal success to grammar schools across the county. My news item on the Kent Test saw the fastest rate of hits ever on the website, totalling 7000 in just over a week. The article on the Medway Test, with about a sixth the number of applicants has already attracted over 3000 visitors.
The other major factor has been the urban myth and misinformation circulating amongst parents, too often driven by some primary headteachers trying to be helpful and some secondary headteachers keen to encourage numbers.
I have covered most of the comment and information below in previous news and information items on this website, but now that most Secondary School Common Application Forms (SCAF) have been submitted, I have time to reflect. Kent parents will know that exceptionally, KCC has extended the closing date to 5th November (nationally it was 31st October) to give parents good time to consult schools after the Kent Tests results were sent out, allowing for half-term in between.
I hear many good reports about the advice freely given by KCC School Admissions, and know that, as always, the Department has been massively overworked. However, they are not allowed to comment about individual schools as I am. Medway Council also runs an advice service.
I explore these issues and a variety of others below......
The main secondary school appeals are now ended, although places are still being freed up, mainly in non-selective schools through movement in waiting lists. This article is an overview of the latest situation across Kent and Medway, although I am happy to be corrected on details or to add in additional items. In particular, information on non-selective school situations would be helpful.
For grammar schools, the main pressure area has been West & North West Kent for boys, with Tunbridge Wells Grammar school for Boys having 89 appeals, and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys having around 70. As a result Kent County Council came under considerable pressure from families whose sons had passed the 11+, but had no grammar school place. In the event, nearly all of these boys have been offered places off waiting lists or at appeals, with TWGSB taking 32 at appeal, Wilmington over 30, Gravesend Grammar taking in nearly all who had passed without the need to go to appeal.
Oakwood Park in Maidstone has also taken up a number of these and, after appeals, now has 164 places allocated, leaving its additional form of entry only part filled. As a result, this OFSTED ‘Outstanding school’ is surprisingly still welcoming applications from anyone who has passed and should be able to offer the vacant places without appeal. I believe that otherwise all these schools are now full, along with Skinners, Judd, Dartford Grammar Boys and Maidstone Grammar. Interestingly, admission authorities can accept a second appeal .......“because of a significant and material change in the circumstances of the parent or child”. For example, if your child comes up with two Level 5s in the recent SATs it may be worthwhile asking a grammar school with vacancies if it will consider a second appeal (it has an absolute right to say no). .........
Kent 2009 Admissions
The full letter for Kent relating to 2009 admisssions and appeals can be found here.The relevant paragraphs are:
Of the 29 local settlements, 25 were education complaints. The largest group of local settlements, 21, concerned applications and appeals for admission to schools where the Council is the admissions authority. The faults included wrong or insufficient information being presented to appeal panels, inappropriate questioning by panellists and poor record keeping. In 14 cases the Council agreed to settle the complaint by the offer of a fresh appeal hearing. In five cases the Council offered a place at the preferred school. I found fault in four other admission cases but used my discretion not to pursue these as I was not satisfied that any injustice had been caused. During the year, four of my staff met officers from the Council’s corporate complaints section and its education department. They discussed identified problems in the way the Council arranges appeals (both for its own schools and in the appeal service that it provides for voluntary aided and foundation schools). They also discussed some delays in responding to our enquiries and resistance to settling complaints. The meeting was useful. As a result, two of my staff took part in three training sessions the Council organised for panellists, presenting officers and appeal clerks for all types of schools.
I settled four other education complaints. Two concerned a failure by the Council to provide education while a child was out of school. The Council paid a total of £1,450 compensation. The second concerned the Council’s failure to state that it would not pay for transport to a school named in a statement of special educational needs. The Council agreed to provide transport following my involvement. The last concerned a number of faults in the way the Council dealt with a child’s special educational needs. As a result he lost half a year’s education which had an impact on him and his mother, who was unable to work while she cared for him at home. The Council paid £5,000 compensation.
Kent 2008 Entry
I decided 58 complaints about applications and appeals for admission to Community and Voluntary Controlled schools, where the Council is the admissions authority. One complaint was outside my jurisdiction. In 23 complaints, there was no, or insufficient, evidence of maladministration and, in 20 others, I used my discretion not to pursue an investigation. I agreed to settle 14 complaints. In a number of appeals, the written cases presented on the Council’s behalf contained mistakes and, in others, the Panels took account of irrelevant factors in reaching their conclusions. In eight cases, a place at a preferred school was offered to a pupil, by various means including a successful appeal. The Council offered a rehearing, with a completely different Appeal Panel and a different Clerk, in respect of the appeals of six other pupils. Nevertheless, the Council was reluctant to accept our recommendations that some appeals should be reheard, and more resistant to our suggestion that, in a very exceptional case where the Council and the Appeal Panel had been at fault, the Council should exercise its discretion to admit the pupil without requiring a further appeal. The Council has agreed to review a range of procedures and published material relating to applications and appeals for school places.
The average time taken by the Council to reply to our written enquiries about complaints was 38.1 days. This represents a significant deterioration, compared with the time taken last year (29.4 days) to respond to our enquiries. Delayed responses were not confined to any particular departments. I hope that the Council will make every effort to achieve the target (28 days) which we set for responding to our first written enquiries.
The Council’s responses to our enquiries as well as being slow do not always provide full answers to the questions raised. This can lead to the need to make further enquiries. While some responses have been thin, others have contained an excess of detail. On occasion the Council is reluctant to offer to settle complaints. Some of the Council’s responses on admission appeal cases have been incomplete, with pages missing from Clerks’ manuscript notes of Admissions Appeal Panels. Our concern about the quality of responses applies not only to complaints about appeals where the Council is the admissions authority for the school in question, but also where the Council provides an appellate and clerking service on behalf of the Governors of Voluntary Aided and Foundation schools who are their own admissions authorities
Medway 2009 Letter
For Medway, the full letter can be found here. The relevant sections read:
Two complaints concerned education. In one the Council failed to update a statement of special educational needs, to reflect a child’s move from a residential school to the 6th form of a mainstream school. The move subsequently broke down. The Council paid £1,000 compensation. I asked the Council to review its procedures to ensure that statements are updated. The Council told me that it was satisfied that its procedures are sufficiently robust. This is a matter I will review in the light of any similar complaints. In the second the Council agreed to offer a re-hearing of an education admission appeal, in the light of some concerns about the way an application to a grammar school had been dealt with. In the event the complainants were successful in obtaining a place at another school and so did not pursue the fresh appeal.
There were no School Admission Ombudsman complaints.
Medway 2008 Letter
I decided 22 complaints about educational issues. I found no maladministration on four school admissions complaints and I used my discretion not to pursue investigations into two others as well as two complaints about general educational issues.
I agreed to settle 13 education complaints. Ten of these related to failures in the arrangements for school admissions. The complaints were settled either by school places being offered to the children or by re-hearings for the parents. One of my Investigators subsequently visited the Council to discuss its school admissions arrangements and a number of changes have now been made which should help to avoid similar problems from occurring in future years.
The average time taken by the Council to reply to our written enquiries was 40.2 days, which is significantly higher than the time target we set and continues the upward trend of the past few years. It also compares unfavourably with the performance of other unitary authorities, only 9% of which have an average response time of 36 days or longer. As in previous years there were some very significant delays on a small number of complaints.
Of the 34 complaints on which we made enquiries, only seven of the responses were within the target time.
One of my Investigators visited the Council in August 2008 to discuss the Council’s procedures for complaint handling.The Council has subsequently confirmed that on-line reporting and case management control systems have been refined to give greater focus to response times and to identify delays at an earlier point within the process. It does not appear that this has yet resulted in any significant improvement. The high level of local settlements (46.4% of those within my jurisdiction) suggests that the Council’s own procedures for dealing with complaints may not be as robust as they could be, and that it may be reluctant to accept fault or not be prepared to offer an appropriate remedy until pressed to do so.
last updated August 2016
Each Year I receive a number of enquiries about oversubscription appeals following the normal application process for primary and secondary schools.These are where the school (it may be non-selective or grammar) is full. I advise some 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, which means you do not need to submit full details by deadline day). You can then leave submitting a detailed letter until after the first round of reallocations takes place. I am happy to delay taking on clients until that time, when you will know whether an appeal will be necessary. Also the pressure on myself is less at these peak times, and so I am able to respond more quickly. Please feel free to contact me if you wish clarification on this.
You will find data on 2016 appeals here.
To make an appeal for a Kent school you should download an appeal form here.
- You will find the most recent appeal statistics for both Kent and Medway via the appropriate link.
- There is a new Code of Practice for School Appeals, issued by government, which took effect in 2012. Some key issues are set out at Code.
- If your child is not allocated their first preference school in March, you may be able to secure a place at a school higher in your list through appeal or via the waiting list and you can follow both processes at the same time.
- 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!). If yours is one of the few academies that organises early appeals, you can still send in your case when you are notified of the date, without penalty. Appeal dates for each school are published on the school website by February 28th (secondary).
- Appeals are always possible for non selective schools when the number of pupils applying for a school is larger than the approved number of admissions.
- Kent admission rules allow parents to apply to any school not on their original list after the first Allocation of vacant spaces in April using the In Year Admission process. Use this to the full, as at the least you are placed on a waiting list and then have rights of appeal. Some children who did not originally apply for a school and who now apply after first Allocation will be offered places ahead of others on the waiting list. The situation in Medway is more confused and confusing.
- You will be asked to submit a case and appear personally at the Panel hearing. The best grounds for appeal are where families can show that the admission of another pupil will not damage the education of those already admitted, where another child has been wrongly selected ahead of their own, or that the admission policy has been interpreted wrongly. Some Foundation & VA schools are keen to admit additional pupils, and in such cases the appeal is much easier, if you have a reasonable case, or your child appears to ‘fit’ the school ethos. you will find information on this in my Individual School pages for Kent and Medway.
- Each oversubscribed school has its own character and approach to appeals for additional pupils.
- Grammar school oversubscription appeals can be very complex, as appellants may have children who have passed the eleven plus, others will not have, and the appeal panel has to balance competing claims.
- I can advise on the expected appeal pattern for each school, and the best strategy to achieve success.
- Remember, at the end of the day, if the school is genuinely full there may be no way to secure admission.
Kent County Council operates what a called Group Appeals for many of its Appeal hearings, where schools are oversubscribed. Schools where this process is being used include Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys and Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls. The Admission Code for School Appeals recommends that where a school is oversubscribed, appeals should be divided into two stages. Where this happens, the first part is called the group stage, where all parents appealing are invited to a meeting at the start of proceedings. At this meeting, all the issues relating to oversubscription are debated between parents and the Admission Authority Presenting Officer in front of the Appeal Panel. No matters relating to individuals are considered. This enables the Appeal Panel to determine before hearing individual appeals how many children, if any, can be admitted before prejudice applies (see section on appeals). The second stage is the individual appeal where each parent puts the case for their individual child. In the second stage there is no discussion of oversubscription issues. The Panel then has to decide which children should be offered places, possibly accepting that for some, there will be prejudice, but their individual circumstances outweigh this. I have some experience of the system, as Medway Council has used it for many years with, in my view, mixed success. Many parents are inhibited at the Group meeting and find it difficult to put forward their points. At some meetings the meeting rapidly degenerated into an unpleasant verbal battle (I don't see this happening at the Kent appeals); at others very few parents turned up,few views were expressed and the meeting fizzled out (more likely). My advice is go to the meeting, at the very least you will see the Appeal Panel members in advance. Don't be afraid to speak out if you believe the school is capable of admitting extra children although this can be come quite a technical argument and school cases for not admitting additional children can be quite intimidating. You won't affect your individual chances by making the case that more children in general can be admitted. In Medway where Appeal Panel members were used to the process, they engaged in quite vigorous and challenging questioning of the Admission Authority. One would expect that KCC panellists will have been trained to carry out similar rigorous questioning. However, where there is no Group Appeal, questioning on prejudice is required to take place in every appeal and can be quite perfunctory and formulaic, so there does need to be a change of approach. One of the strongest arguments year on year comes from looking at the numbers in older year groups. If the school can manage these, then why shouldn't it manage the same number again.
I am continuing to offer my Telephone (or FaceTime) Consultation Service to families living in the Local Authority areas of Kent and Medway, relating to Kent and Medway schools as explained below. I also extend this service to the many expatriate families moving back to Kent, and others moving into the area, although not to speculative out of county families seeking Kent grammar schools. I am afraid I have retired from offering the full appeals service which has operated for the past twelve years.
You may wish to first visit the Education website or telephone the Department for factual advice, as below.
Kent County Council: Education Website, here. School Admissions (and other education departments), telephone: 03000 41 21 21.
Medway Council: Education Website here. Telephone: 01634 306 000.
Enquirers find the Kent County Council Schools website and Admissions Department especially helpful. Many parents find that Medway Council is not helpful, nor correct in its advice, which can vary from family to family.
Both departments should be able to provide you with any factual information you need to assist you to make a decision, but are not allowed to offer you opinion, nor compare different options.
If your child is currently at school, you should also talk to their headteacher, who is likely to have a good knowledge of local schools and more importantly, should know your child.
Can I help you.
I can only help you if:
- You live in Kent or Medway Local Authority Areas and your enquiry is about school matters in these areas. The exception is for families seeking to move into Kent or Medway, who want to find out about local schools in the area they are considering, often moving from abroad.
- You provide me with as much relevant information as possible to enable me to see if I can help.
What I offer
I have retired from my full personal appeals advice service, but am able to offer a range of advice on many aspects of education. This is based on a life-time in education, and twelve years of working with parents offering advice, based on my extensive knowledge of local matters, backed up by a unique and wide database of information, much of which is reproduced in this website in the information pages, indexed on the right hand side of this page. .
Areas of expertise include: advice on primary and secondary school admissions and appeals; looking for schools for those wishing to move here from elsewhere in the UK, and expatriates. Some aspects of Special Education. For other educational matters covered in these pages, let me know what you seeking and I can advise if I am able to assist.
Secondary and Primary School Appeals
I am afraid I am now only able to offer support for appeals through a Telephone Advisory Consultation before you begin the appeal process.