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Sheffield School Admissions Appeals Help - What You Should Do

Local / Educating Children Jun 09, 2013 - 06:34 PM GMT

By: N_Walayat


Many parents of Sheffield's children will have found that their child has been rejected for a place at their secondary, junior or primary school of choice during the past few months, where in many instances even for catchment area schools due to the blanket reason of schools being over-subscribed. However, what this hides is the underlying truth of why so many children are being denied places at schools of choice which is as consequences of severe cuts in the schools budget that continues to intensify each year.

Subsequently many parents are being forced to go down the appeals process route which this article seeks to illuminate.

Sheffield School Places Chaos

The reason so many children fail to get a place at for instance a catchment area school, is as a consequence of the Labour run Sheffield City Council continuing the Liberal Democrats programme for spending deep cuts in Sheffield's education budget as the below graph illustrates that in nominal terms has seen the education budget already cut by 11% since 2010 and 17% in real terms for the year 2012-13 and with the budget for 2013-14 announced continuing the the deep cuts to 14% and 24%, (after inflation of 3% per annum).

Sheffeld city council school places cuts

The impact of these cuts on child places in effect reverses the picture of more than a decade earlier, when Sheffield's children could more or less have expected to receive a place at a catchment area school of their choice at the application stage, with the remaining accepted on appeal, this was as the below graph illustrates by virtue of the fact that for many years Sheffield had a surplus of 5,000 school places (about 5%). However over the past 2 years deep cuts in the budget in real terms has reversed the situation from a an estimated 5,000 surplus places to a deficit of 5,000 places as of 2012-13, i.e. a cut of 10,000 school places through school closures and reductions in the number of classes running at exiting schools, against that which were available during 2010-11, the consequences of which is that schools are being effectively stuffed full to the rafters with the number of children per class now far exceeding the recommended guidelines for maximum class sizes which is resulting in the lack of school places at catchment area schools.

The consequences for 2013 school places has been that many families face a crisis of failure to attain a place in catchment area schools even if siblings attend the school due to an estimated deficit of 8,000 school places for 2013-13 which is resulting in children being placed at schools right across the city thus making it impossible for children with siblings to be in receipt of an effective education service that parents are still forced to pay for through high council and payroll taxes.

The consequences of this is not just lack of school places at schools of choice but that ALL existing schools will be stuffed full to rafters with children they have no room for with severe consequences in terms of the quality of teaching and social consequences in terms of breakdown in school systems including the the behaviour of students, and ultimately in the performance of schools as all schools are likely to see a worsening in the attainment levels of their students.

Social and Transport Dangers

The social consequences are likely to spill out into the wider community as frustrated parents start to blame others for the crisis in Sheffield's schooling such as the continuing influx of eastern european migrant families being blamed for schools being full to bursting point when instead the reality is one of a 24% real terms cut in the education budget (2013-14).

Furthermore parents having a short time window each school day to drop off and pick up several children at DIFFERENT schools which increases the risk of accidents which therefore unnecessarily increases the costs to the parents in terms of increased insurance premiums payable following accidents plus the risk of personal injury to children that is not being factored into Sheffield City Council's chaotic school places cuts policy.

What Parents Need to do -

As I strongly suggested in my earlier article of 3rd of March 2013, for parents to stand a real chance of succeeding at appeals then they need to appoint a solicitor at the earliest opportunity, i.e. as soon as your child's place has been rejected because you will be competing against many hundreds if not thousands of parents who are in the same boat, especially if you have been rejected for a catchment area school as the chances of winning an appeal without a solicitor are only about 5%.

The key point is that there is a first come first served waiting list for school places, therefore whatever action parents take it needs to be initiated as soon as possible for delaying puts you further down the waiting list and therefore with less chance of being successful as LESS school places will be available.

Parents may find that the School Admissions team may be deter you from making an early appeal i.e. to suggest to wait until later in the year (July / August) before appealing. Ignore this because the suggestion for a later appeals application is just an attempting to lighten the heavier workload earlier in the year.

What Happens At School Appeal Hearings

Whilst the appeals panel will give off the aura of independence however amateur parents usually attending their first appeal are at a severe disadvantage as they will find themselves up against seasoned professional representatives put up the school and school admissions department towards whom the panel will ultimately defer.

Parents tend to be given the illusion of independence by initial statements of impartiality however during the hearing the panel's statements will veer towards the school and education departments position which is why the vast majority of appeals fail (est 95%).

The bias can be seen in statements such as

  • That the parent of another child attending the school could drop off and pick up your child for the next 4 years or so.
  • or where children are forced to attend separate schools that both parents could pick up and drop off children which implies that the working parent should cease working.
  • The schools counter suggestions could include that the parent could utilise breakfast club's and after school club's thus enabling early drop off and late pickup, however the school will usually fail to specify that these are typically charged at the rate of £8 per session and therefore cost the parent upwards of £3,300 per annum as schools seek to charge parents for schooling so as to offset spending cuts.

A week or so following the appeals hearing, parents will tend to receive a letter letter informing them of the rejection of the appeal for a school place that is based on selective editing of the facts mentioned at the appeals hearing.

In summary the appeals process is a mere formality for having gone through a process so as to dot the t's and cross the i's.

The bottom line is -

1. That parents are amateurs in the appeals process, unaware of the intricacies of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 that the professionals will repeatedly expertly refer to.

2. That the parents will be opposed by highly practiced professionals representing the school and and admissions department who are well versed in the processes for maximising their case whilst ignoring all the points that would go contrary to the case, especially any errors made on their part on the process of making places available to all prospective students.

For instance in Sheffield not all parents are given a choice as the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 suggests should take place in being able to apply for school places, rather selections are automatically made without parental input for instance in the transfer of children from nursery to linked junior schools.

The only real solution to avoid a virtually certain rejection of your appeal is as mentioned earlier for parents to appoint a legal representative to hold the appeals panel to operate to a standard of impartially and be able to properly defend the parents case against professionals employed by the School and Admissions Department.

During 2013 and over coming years parents will increasingly find themselves forced to pay upto several thousand pounds to get a place at even an catchment area school, never mind schools of choice as the number of places and quality of schooling continues to diminish as a consequence of DEEP real terms cuts of already amounting to 24% from 2010 to 2013-14.

Summary of Key Appeal Steps

1. Get a solicitor involved at the earliest to advise you on your school appeal because without whom you only have a 5% chance of success.

2. Put in your appeal application as soon as possible, within days of being rejected because you will be put onto a first come first served waiting list for school places.

Holding Labour and Liberal Councillor's to Account

Sheffield's Councilors of both Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are letting the electorate down as they concentrate on preserving bureaucracy and their own perks and allowances at the expense of actual front line services as illustrated by the School Pupils Admissions Team which is failing to operate a fair and level playing field in the handling of annual applications for all pupils, failure to do so should mean that they should also lose their place in the council chamber (be voted out) just as many children are annually denied their right to a place in the nearest school due as a consequence deep cuts and operation of a two tier system for school places which is supported by a pseudo independant rubber stamping appeals process. The responsibility for Sheffield's education crisis lies firmly with the Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillor's, current and former cabinet members and their advisors.

The bottom line is that as the city council is unable to operate an efficient and fair education system then parents should be allowed to opt out of state schooling altogether, in which respect a proportion of their taxes, including council taxes deducted towards state education should be refunded to allow to be utilised towards paying for competent private schooling especially as cutting funding by 24% (real terms) and stuffing existing schools full of students WILL obviously result in the WORSENING of the quality of education and student attainment levels for ALL state schools.

Source and Comments:

Nadeem Walayat

Copyright © 2005-2013 (Market Oracle Ltd). All rights reserved.

Nadeem Walayat has over 25 years experience of trading derivatives, portfolio management and analysing the financial markets, including one of few who both anticipated and Beat the 1987 Crash. Nadeem's forward looking analysis focuses on UK inflation, economy, interest rates and housing market. He is the author of four ebook's in the The Inflation Mega-Trend and Stocks Stealth Bull Market series.that can be downloaded for Free.

The Stocks Stealth Bull Market 2013 and Beyond EbookThe Stocks Stealth Bull Market Update 2011 EbookThe Interest Rate Mega-Trend EbookThe Inflation Mega-trend Ebook

Nadeem is the Editor of The Market Oracle, a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication that presents in-depth analysis from over 600 experienced analysts on a range of views of the probable direction of the financial markets, thus enabling our readers to arrive at an informed opinion on future market direction.

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any trading losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors before engaging in any trading activities.

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