Appeals

If you apply for a place in a state-funded school and a place has been refused, you have the right to appeal against the decision of the admission authority for the school – Bishop Wordsworth’s Academy Trust.

Your right to appeal

If you wish to appeal you must have applied for, and been refused, a school place. Therefore if your son has failed the 11+ you will still need to apply for a place. The right to appeal is given under Section 94 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. These notes apply to the appeals for year groups 7 to 12 at Bishop Wordsworth’s School.

What is an appeal panel?

The panel that will hear your appeal is independent of the School, the Academy Trust and the Local Authority. It consists of three people, served by a Clerk. The hearings are conducted in accordance with the law following a procedure set out in the School Admissions Appeals Code, issued by the Department for Education in 2012. The panel makes every effort to ensure the proceedings are as informal as possible and you have the opportunity to explain the reasons for your appeal in your own way and to ask the questions you want to ask.

When will my appeal be heard?

There is a set timescale for appeals for the normal intake into Year 7. This timescale is published on the admissions section of our website early in 2020. For appeals for boys who are already at secondary school, the appeal will be heard within 30 school days of you submitting your appeal.

Ten school days before the hearing, the Clerk to the panel will write to you to say where and when it will be heard. If there are a lot of appeals, it may be that Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the hearings are held on different days. The letter will include a statement from us setting out the reasons why we could not offer your son a place here. You will also receive a copy of your own submission so that everyone is clear on the information the panel will have to consider. You should read them and bring them with you to the hearing. By having a copy of our submissions in advance, you will be able to consider whether there are any questions you would like to ask. If there is anything else you would like to submit, you are asked to send in any additional papers by the additional documents deadline (as set out in the timetable and usually about 5 days before the hearing). Evidence not submitted by this deadline may not be considered at the appeal. The panel will be told what scores your son achieved in the test.

What sort of evidence should I present?

You will need to present strong and compelling evidence to the panel to demonstrate that your son is of the ability to benefit from a grammar school education. If you son reached the pass mark you will be making a RESOURCES APPEAL. Look at the criteria used to prioritise entry to the school. If your son is on the waiting list it is because the school is claiming to be full. The School will have to show the panel that increasing the numbers to include your son will detrimentally affect the education and resources offered to the other boys in his year group. You will have to persuade the panel that either the criteria were not correctly applied in your son’s case, or that the special reasons in your case mean that your son’s needs are greater than the detrimental effect his entry will have on his year group. If your son hasn’t reached the pass mark, your appeal will be on the basis of SELECTION AND RESOURCES. The evidence must prove high academic ability and may also include proof of mitigating circumstances for not securing a higher mark. The most ready source of information about your son’s ability is likely to be his primary school. You should ask yourself whether the school will feel able to support your appeal and what evidence they could produce.

Lower than expected mark – mitigating circumstances

  • The panel will be looking for strong and compelling extenuating circumstances which are sufficient to explain the shortfall in marks
  • Documentary evidence from an appropriate person outside the family who can substantiate how your child was affected will carry more “weight” than a statement on the appeal form.
  • The death of a family member the night before the test who lived in the same household, would carry more “weight” than a distant relative who lived in Scotland and died some months ago.
  • Minor events – such as a poor night’s sleep - are unlikely to attract much weight.

All evidence needs to be corroborated. Evidence should be submitted at the time of your appeal unless this is unavoidable. Additional evidence must be submitted to the Clerk anytime up until the additional documents deadline.

Am I wasting my time appealing?

No, appeals for places at grammar schools can be successful. However you must present a strong case, backed by compelling and corroborative evidence which clearly demonstrates that your son has the same academic ability of those who have already been offered a place. It must also be shown that in the panel’s view, the admission of another child will not prejudice the efficient education and use of resources.

What happens at Stage 1?

If there is a large number of appeals to be heard, this will normally be heard with other parents. Otherwise, Stage 1 and Stage 2 will both be heard in private for each appeal. Stage 1 usually takes about 2 hours but can take longer depending on the questions that are asked. This is the stage where our Presenting Officer – the School’s representative – puts their case for refusing admission. This will be that our admissions arrangements have been lawfully set and applied fairly. As a grammar school, we do not have to fill vacancies if a candidate is not of the required academic standard to benefit from a grammar school education. The Appeals Code also allows the School to argue that we cannot go above our published admission number (PAN) or other admission limit (AL) as there would a prejudice to efficient education or the efficient use of resources should any other boy be admitted to the year group. After the Presenting Officer has presented the case, the panel will ask questions and then the Chairman will invite parents to ask questions. At the end of this Stage, the panel will adjourn and consider whether the case has been made that the boy has been refused lawfully. You are welcome to remain to hear from the Clerk if the panel has accepted our case. If it has, the panel will consider your son’s circumstances at Stage 2.

What happens at Stage 2?

Stage 2 is held in private with no other parents present. On average, Stage 2 will take around 40 minutes, some take longer, some take less. Please bear in mind that the panel are looking for quality of argument and not necessarily quantity but you should cover anything that you feel is relevant. The panel will invite you to present your case, based on the submission you made. Your role is to persuade the panel that your son would suffer greater prejudice by not being admitted that the School would face by admitting another boy. The threshold for this is high. Once you have presented your case, the panel may ask questions of you and so may the Presenting Officer. This is to confirm facts so that the panel is in a better position to reach a decision.

How to present your Case

How you do this is entirely for you. But useful advice is to: Be on time. Be prepared. Be positive. You can bring along a friend to support your case. The panel will want to hear what you have to say and will consider everything but consider how you would feel as a panel member if you reeled off copious facts and figures. Be focused and to the point. After questions, you will be invited to have the last word.

Who are the panel members?

The three members of the panel are volunteers; they have received relevant training and are totally independent of us and the LA. Some have direct experience in education, others are known as lay members. The panel has the services of a Clerk who is more than just a note-taker, he or she can offer the panel legal or procedural advice. The names of the panel members are published on the letter of invitation to the hearings. In the unlikely event that you know a panel member, you must inform the Clerk immediately so that another panel member can be made available.

How will the panel make their decision?

During their deliberation, the panel will consider your case against section 3.13 of the Appeals Code. Bishop’s does not apply a review process of a boy’s academic ability so the panel must only uphold the appeal if it is satisfied: i) that there is evidence to demonstrate that the boy is of the required academic ability; and ii) where applicable, that your case outweighs our case. The panel can’t devise its own methods to assess suitability for a grammar school place unrelated to the evidence provided for the hearing. If the panel accept our case, it will exercise discretion, using sections 3.8 to 3.10 of the Appeals Code, to balance the degree of prejudice to the School against your case. If there are multiple appeals, the panel must not compare individual cases when deciding whether your case outweighs the prejudice to the School. However, where the panel finds there are more cases which outweigh prejudice than it believes the School can admit, it will then compare the cases and uphold those with the strongest case for admission. During the deliberation only the panel members vote and make decisions. The Clerk remains to record and advise the law. Our Presenting Officer is not present during this process.

When will I hear the result?

Where possible, the decision together with the panel’s reasons will be posted to you and to us in writing by the Clerk within five schooldays of all the appeals being heard. The panel’s decision is binding on us and on you.

What happens if I decide not to attend the hearing?

The panel will consider the appeal on the basis of the written information available only. You appeals is considered in the same way as all other appeals and some parents prefer not to attend. If you do not attend the Stage 1 hearing, you may still attend your Stage 2 hearing. Whether or not you attend Stage 1, matters relating to Stage 1 cannot be discussed at Stage 2.

Can I appeal against this decision?

No. But if you think that the appeal has not been conducted according to the Appeals Code, you can complain to the Education Funding Agency. They act for the Secretary of State. The decision cannot be reviewed or overturned. However, if it is found that you have been disadvantaged by the appeal process, you have another hearing with a different panel and Clerk.

Where can I get further information and advice?

The Appeals Code allows for the Clerk to give you independent generic advice regarding the appeal process. In the first instance you should email the Clerk.

Mrs Rosie Nikopoulos
Clerk to the Appeals Panel
Email: admissions.appeals@bws.wilts.sch.uk