This afternoon I attended five admissions appeals as an observer. I wanted to see the panel in action because, having attended the panel training, I may well be asked to become a panel member this year. Also, next year I will probably be speaking at appeals on behalf of the school at which I am a governor, something that was filling me with dread until a few hours ago.

Because of the confidential nature of the appeals process, I can’t go into details, but there were tears, tantrums, pleas and table banging (and that was just the panel!). Seriously though, it was obviously a highly stressful time for the parents, who all came from different areas and backgrounds, but who had one thing in common – a desire to get the absolute best for their children.

Several parents mentioned the three families they knew of who had given false addresses – none, however, were prepared to name names. They were all too decent to put someone else into the position they themselves were in. You had to like them for that, but I seriously doubt that it helped their chances.

It was also fairly obvious that these people didn’t fully understand the system. Either they had made misjudgements when they put in their applications (if you don’t write the name of the nearby failing school down, your child won’t have to go there), or they hadn’t done their homework on how to handle the appeal – many of them made a reasonable case, then (I suspect) blew it with one final comment like “if they don’t get in we’ll have to send them to a private school”.

The most regular comment was “what about parental choice?” But, for me, the most poignant remark was; “I’ve been reading about Every Child Matters. If every child matters, why doesn’t mine?”

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