Appealing your school decision

by Anna Michaelidou

As parents we all know the stress that comes with ensuring our children go to a school that is right for them. And the headache, tears and disappointment that comes with not being accepted into that school.

Well that is exactly what happened to me. After several months in a secondary school that he had been placed I started to realise that my son was simply not in the right place. He was not being motivated, in fact he was being totally de-motivated. There was simply no consistency with lessons; the only consistency my son was getting was from the bullies at this school.

I decided that it would be best for my son to move to a grammar school where I knew he would be challenged and motivated and put on the right track for a better academic future than if I left him at the school he was in. So he sat the entrance exam for the grammar school.

grammar school

I took him there at 9am only to wait like a nervous chicken for two and a half hours before picking him up and dropping him back to school. Now, before I dropped him back I of course asked how he did. His reply was "I think it went OK, mum. Not sure about the Maths paper and I didn't get to finish the non-verbal, but other than that OK".

My reply was "well, if you did you're best that is good enough for me".

And then the wait...

Literally counting the hours and days until I would hear the news about whether my son had managed to pass these papers to go to a school I was sure he'd be happy in.

The agonising wait ended three days later. I phoned the grammar school and asked about the results. They explained that the results had been sent out by email the day before. I did not receive that email. So I begged to be told the news and the quite miserable lady on the end of the phone agreed to tell me. She reeled off his scores then bluntly told me that because my son had not quite passed the Verbal reasoning paper he would not be offered a place.

I couldn't believe it. I was so, so proud yet so angry. My son had passed both his Maths and Non-verbal (the ones I was worried about after what he told me) and his Spatial with flying colours, and yet for a few tiny points in his English paper (please bear in mind English is not his first language) he was not being accepted into the school. No. I just couldn't accept that. My son's whole future education depended on this and I wasn't going to go down without a fight.

My response was "could you please let me know how to go about an appeal?".

After closing the phone I started my research straight away. I have never gone through an appeal process before and I wanted to be as informed and prepared as a runner running the London Marathon for the first time.

And so I read. And read some more. Then I asked. Anyone who would listen. And I began to build my case. I wrote the longest speech and got all the information I deemed necessary together. I made endless photocopies and bought some folders to present to the appeal panel (although I must admit they were nearly out of all black folders so I picked up the last three black ones, two blues and one pink).

After submitting my request for an appeal I received a date for two weeks later. Those two weeks were filled with reviewing the information I was going to take with me, getting relevant letters of reference to support my case and going over and editing my speech close to a hundred times.

And the date arrived. I would have thirty minutes to present my case and convince the panel that my son was worthy of going to this much-wanted school. I arrived thirty minutes early and sat in a waiting room, ready to be called through to meet the panel. After a good thirty minutes of waiting the clerk came through and presented himself. I stood up, shook his hand and introduced myself. I then presented him with my multi-coloured folders and asked if he would kindly give them out to the panel, keeping one for himself and giving one also to the representative of the school.

I was then led through to a small room where a large oval table with several seats took up the majority of the room. A kind looking elderly lady (the chair) sat in the middle of two well-dressed gentlemen. I placed myself on the chair opposite the chair lady. To my left sat the school representative and to my right sat the clerk with a laptop placed in front of him. After the introductions the chair lady explained the process.

I have never been to court but I have seen enough television court room dramas to feel as though I was on trial. As kind and polite as everyone present was, I could not hide away my feelings of utter dread and nervousness. I had however, made a promise to myself that I would not cry; not easy for someone who gets emotional at the slightest little thing and cries at pretty much anything sad!

Questions came and went although I was told that I had answered pretty much everything in my speech. As the meeting came to a close I was commended by one of the kindly gentlemen on my preparation and presentation, something I felt very grateful for. I was then told that I should hear the panel's decision no later than a week from that day.

That was probably one of the longest weeks of my life. The umming and aarring about what I would do had I not been successful. The sleepless nights, the waking when I did manage to get to sleep thinking about what else I could have said to convince them of my son's worth. The constant waiting for the mail-man and deflated feeling every time he came with nothing but a bank statement, a bill or an invite to a quiz night from the school I so wanted him to be away from. Then the Friday came. The day they had said I'd get the decision. And nothing. The mail-man showed up with just a letter that was not even addressed to me.

So I phoned the local council and asked them when I could expect to hear by. The lady on the end of the phone told me that the decisions had just come in and I could expect them either the next day or on the Monday. I pleaded for her to tell me over the phone to no avail. To know that she knew and wouldn't tell me was absolute torture; but rules are rules.

And so I waited some more. Saturday came and around 12.30pm I heard the drop of the post onto the floor. I ran to pick up the one letter that was sitting there. Then I ran to my husband and told him the letter had arrived. After waiting so long for this news I sat there for what seemed like an eternity before carefully peeling open the envelope. My husband just stood there staring at me.

"Well?" he asked in a rather quiet voice.

"I don't know...", was my whispered reply.

And then I looked. I read through every word then read through it again while my husband looked patiently on. Then I screamed with joy that we had been offered the place we so longed for, and my son, who had been happily playing his piano came running down the stairs.

In that moment I felt so proud. So proud of my son for attaining the marks that meant I could appeal. And proud of myself for my glorious achievement.

Education is something I honestly believe is one of the greatest things you can give to your children. A good education leads to better career prospects and a happier future. Knowing whether your child is happy at school and fighting for a better education is something I believe is important to all parents. If my son had been happy and was being well-motivated at the school he was at I would not have appealed for a different school. But an unhappy child will not flourish and I want my son to grow and succeed to the best of his abilities; something I will always fight for.

Here are some of my tips for if you are considering appealing your school decision.

Tips for an appeal:

  • Only appeal if you think it is the right decision for your child.
  • Prepare yourself; everything you say must be backed up.
  • Take someone with you; someone who can step in should you get emotional.
  • Do not cry; the panel are not there to see your tears, they are there to hear your case.
  • Be confident; you are fighting for a place for your child to ensure a better future for them.
  • Provide evidence; relevant evidence that can support your appeal.
  • Know as much about the school you are applying for as possible.
  • Be polite; do not get agitated or defensive, just put your points across in the best possible manner.

And remember should your appeal not be successful you can always try again the next year. Maybe hire a tutor for any weaknesses your child may have to better prepare them for the next try.

Good luck!