A close up pic of one of my mother’s day gifts, it’s an articulated origami butterfly patiently made by my 10 year old.
I can honestly say that the weeks leading up to the appeals were the most stressful of my life. You’d have to know me to be aware that I wouldn’t say that lightly. It was awful knowing that the fate of my children lay in the hands of strangers – what if they were having an ‘off’ day or what if they’d had a row with their partner that morning, or had a headache, or just didn’t like the look of me?!
I took lots of advice; from people on twitter, from friends, from teachers, from the admissions team etc. All the advice suggested that we didn’t have much of a chance. Several people said ‘be careful not to turn the panel against you’, I found that phrase practically haunted me – in the most emotive and important meeting of my life I wasn’t meant to be emotional, or angry or too questioning.
I think the worst thing of all was that we didn’t have a Plan B. The schools we wanted were right by the house – the other schools were miles and miles away and it wasn’t logistically possible to get both children to both schools at the same time when they were 15 miles apart! My previous post explains the problem more specifically. Frustratingly, as we had not exchanged contracts on our new house the appeal was classed as an ‘out of catchment’ appeal – with our address showing as over 60 miles away from the school!
We’d been told that we stood a reasonable chance on the year 6 place and that we had no chance on the year 7 case as the last few appellants had lost their appeals.
How A Hearing Works
There are two distinct parts to an appeal. First – the local authority representative speaks and explains why the school is full and why it would prejudice the school to have to admit another pupil.
This part is not about my child, it is about the school. Their job is to prove they are full.
There is then a recess during which the panel decide whether or not they find that the effective running of the school would be prejudiced by admitting another pupil.
If they do not find prejudice then the appeal is won. If they do find prejudice then it moves to the second stage of the appeal where the parent has to put their case and explain how it would prejudice the child if they were not able to attend that school.
The panel then decide who would be most prejudiced if the child went to the school and the outcome is issued by post within 5 days.
1st appeal was for a year 6 junior school place – the LA put their case and explained that the school had smaller than average classrooms and an unusual architectural design which he felt adversely affected the running of the school. We then asked questions based upon what they’d said. My aim here was to ask questions which demonstrated it would be possible for another child to be in one of the classes without causing any problems for pupils or staff.
During the questions we found that in year 1 there were 3 classes each containing 22 children, but in year 2 there were only 2 classes each of which had 32 children in them, I suggested that as the school had chosen to do that in year 2 it must work and therefore there was no reason why they couldn’t have classes of 31 in year 6. We also found that there were 3 rooms in the school which were not currently being used as class rooms which again suggested that there was extra capacity.
We went out for the recess and when we returned the panel told us that they were not able to find that there would be any prejudice for the school to admit another child – appeal 1 was WON!
2nd appeal was for a year 7 senior school place – much trickier as there are 34 children on the waiting list! Again the LA put their case – the school had been built for a smaller population, they had been promised development monies that they would not now be getting, they had dismantled portable classrooms on the promise of a new building which never came, the school could not fit in the main hall at all the same time, they had insufficient designated science labs….
All quite doom and gloom. One thing they didn’t say (but that was in their written report which I had studied at length!) was that they were having to re-open some previously closed rooms because of growing pupil numbers. So I asked for clarification of this and asked how many rooms there were that could be re-opened. The LA did not have the information with them. I asked why they had dismantled the portable classes BEFORE the new building had been finished as surely if they didn’t have sufficient room in the school then they would have had to have waited until the new building was finished – the LA said we could guess at several answers, but he did not know the actual answer. I asked how many children were in each of the year 7 classes – the highest class number was 30 and the smallest was 27 – I said that would suggest that there was room in the class with 27 pupils. The chairman of the panel then pointed out that on his information there was a class in year 8 with 32 pupils.
We again went out for recess and when we returned we were told that the panel were not able to find that there would be any prejudice for the school to admit another child – appeal 2 was WON!
The chairman added at the end that ‘sometimes the system works‘.
So we won both appeals without actually having to say anything about the children and why they should go to those schools which I’m still trying to get my head around. We were expecting a long drawn out process with lots of difficult questions, having to reign in tempers and tears and then waiting 5 long days to hear.
To anyone considering a school appeal I would say make sure you read the LAs case thoroughly so that you are able to identify any weak points in may have. Proving the school isn’t full is by far the simplest way to win an appeal.
To say I was pleased by the outcome is a bit of an understatement. With tears in my eyes I told the chairman of the panel that I loved him, I then hugged him and enthusiastically thanked everyone in the room!
I have 4 pairs of tickets to The Essex Baby Show (sponsored by KidAround) on Sunday 16 October 2011!
To enter, please RT on twitter and comment below – winners will be picked at random on Wednesday 12th October 2011.
There is a vacancy for a school crossing patrol assistant in Colchester if anyone is interested in applying please click here for details…
I am genuinely saddened to have received a text from my youngest child’s school (in Colchester) today saying that as of tomorrow there will no longer be a school crossing patrol near the school.
This means that the children of the infants, juniors and 3 seniors schools will all potentially be attempting to cross a very busy road unaided.
Yes, I know that the little ones will be with parents but the year 6 (and upwards) children generally walk on their own. However I don’t feel that it is in any way appropriate for my year 6 son to be negotiating the traffic on his own so I will now have to adjust my working hours further to make sure that I can take him to and collect him from the school gate.
I won’t be the only parent who comes to this conclusion and for those of us who then have to dash off to work the only viable solution is to drive which will increase congestion near the schools and subsequently increase the risk to vulnerable pedestrians even further.
I am quite appalled that this has been deemed acceptable.
Have just sent my 11 year old son to the shop (which is about 200 yards away….) to get a packet of rolls for packed lunch tomorrow and some baked beans to go with 9 year old’s dinner.
I know it’s an important part of his development that I allow him to do this but I fret the whole time he is gone. Will he drop the money and run into the road to get it? Will he be mugged? Will he drop something in the shop and panic? Will he get run over crossing the road? Will a peodophile target him?
As ever, he is a sensible boy, we live in a nice neighbourhood and he comes home safely with all goods in a bag and all change accounted for.
Made me think of when I was sent to the shop as a child…… most days I would be sent to get a copy of the Sun, a bar of fruit & nut and 20 fags for my dad!
The shopkeeper would always sell me the cigarettes as he knew they were for my dad. When the regulations changed, I used to have to take a note from my dad asking for them!
How times have changed huh!
I was a bit thrown by The Gallery prompt of ‘My Backyard’ as my garden isn’t anything special and I know a lot of you guys have wonderfully planted, loved and tended to gardens that will lend themselves beautifully to artful photography.
Then I thought about what my backyard means to me; a place of sanctuary? No. A place of noisy and boisterous play? Yes! My backyard is all about the 2 boys who play in it, who bounce on that trampoline in a way that stops my heart as I anticipate bad landings and trips to A&E, who trample my plants because they are too busy avoiding imaginary attacks from LEGO warships and who care not that the grass is worn.
Superheroes play in my backyard.
As I have now been single for 3 whole weeks, the evil twins (they aren’t twins) have decided that I should find a new man as soon as possible.
I asked them why so soon and they said:
C&T: “Not being funny but you don’t want to end up like nanny.”
Me: “Oh I don’t think nanny is lonely”
C&T: “Er, trust us, that’s not what we meant.”
So, moving swiftly on, I asked them what sort of man they thought I should go for. They quite surprised me with the following list:
1. Not shouty.
3. Likes playing games.
4. Be handsome.
5. Be fun. Sometimes silly but can be sensible too.
6. Maisy must like him.
7. Have a cool job. Examples given were: footballer; wrestler; NOT a clown*
8. Not smoke.
9. Not swear.
10. Not be bald.
11. Be taller than me.
12. Be kind.
13. Be loose not tight.
14. Not be allergic to cats.
15. Not be a clown*
16. Be good at drawing.
17. Be a billionaire.
18. Be cleverer than me – they added that wouldn’t be hard.
19. Be a maker.
20. Want to help them with stuff.
21. Live locally.
22. Make me happy.
DS2 then asked where I would find this man.
The night I told them that DH and I were separating DS2 said “Back on the old dating site then girl.” I laughed and said that I wouldn’t be going on a dating site, so DS2 said “just gonna hang out in some pubs then yeh?”
As we walked back to the car, for every man that we past, DS2 nudged me and said “Huh, how about him?” I said that I couldn’t just go up to a stranger and say hello, but he had a solution for that too. He said “You don’t say hello, you say: hey, got the rest of your life free to spend with me?”
*I think it’s worth pointing out that we had this conversation in a restaurant called Clowns, in which the walls are plastered with photos of clowns and circus memorabilia!
I know it’s meant to be #SilentSunday so shhhhh. This, ladies & gentlemen, is Hoppy The Christmas Frog. When I found myself to be ‘suddenly single‘ with 2 young boys I occasionally found that disciplining them could be a battle. Gone was the option of ‘what will daddy think when he comes home’ so I had to be inventive.
I bought Hoppy on a whim one day because I thought he was beautiful and we didn’t have any particularly nice decorations.
My boys loved him, particularly the youngest, so I told them that he was Hoppy The Christmas Frog and that he was here to oversee Christmas. I told them that he was here to make sure they were being good so that Santa would know to bring them presents. My boys aren’t daft, they were dubious.
One day when we were out in town the boys had been playing up, squabbling, generally not behaving. I told them that Hoppy would be cross.
When we got home all the ceiling decorations had fallen down – both boys were silent as they took in the scene.
“Did Hoppy do this mummy?” Whispered my youngest…
As Christmas draws alarmingly near, I can’t help but turn my thoughts to children who may not have all that they should. I don’t mean in terms of presents, I mean in terms of love, support, warmth, care and family.
The good people at NSPCC have launched a Christmas Wishes campaign and I’d like to help spread the word.
If you go onto their website you will see lots of ways to help other than the obvious ‘donate money’ although let’s not forget about that option too. I set up a standing order to the NSPCC years ago, not a huge amount, but every month it means that I make a small contribution to their work. It’s easy, effortless and it means I don’t forget.
You can send a letter from Santa.
You can create a personalised Christmas ecard.
You can create corporate Christmas ecards.
You can donate by shopping.
You can make a donation to the NSPCC and a friend or family member of your choice will receive a personalised card and festive bauble which they can hang on their tree as a reminder of their unique gift.
Thursday night we were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park in London. To say it was magical is one big fat understatement! It was an incredible night out that I know will have created lasting memories for my boys.
As you get close to the park the skyline is alive with brightly lit towers, rides, big wheels and all manner of exciting looking things. I’m not sure who was more eager to get in there – the kids or me!
Amazingly it is free to enter, so if you don’t fancy the rides it’s still worth going along to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the Christmas market.
As you walk in there are some lovely Christmassy stalls offering a range of different wares for unusual present ideas. Plus a tantalising aroma which is a meld of spiced pretzels, BBQ, roasted chestnuts, hot flavoured nuts, candies, steak burgers, german sausage, hot chocolate, waffles, crepes and much more.
The children were keen to get the huge (frightening looking) rides but before we ran ahead we stepped into an innocuous looking ‘Hall of Mirrors’ I’m so glad we did, it was hilarious! Before you get to the maze of mirrors, there is a room full of different moving floors, which had us all in fits.
After much persuasion, I did manage to convince DH that ice skating was a great idea and we all donned incredibly crippling skates and headed onto the open air ice rink. We did place bets that I would be the first to stack it but it was actually DS1 who went first, and second and third and….. I think I was the third member of the family to ‘go down like a sack of spuds’. Have to say I was reasonably impressed that the ice didn’t shatter 😉 I learnt two things, one that I am not Jane Torvill and two that it is sometimes useful to have a well padded derrière!
Also spotted Roland Rivron in the ice rink, I think he was with the skating display (whether as a skater or not I don’t know as the boys were keen to get onto the scary roller coaster!) DS1 says that I scream to much on roller coasters…
As you enter and leave the park you go by a German singing reindeer – highlight of night for me, he was fab! Just don’t laugh too much at the glimpses of me!
#Winterwonderland at Hyde Park. Witness the German singing reindeer – no day out is complete without one! Please excuse the glimpses of me and the nest of snakes that is my hair….
If the video doesn’t play for you, you can access it via the link below.