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Education

Meeting with MP

(46 Posts)
gillybob Thu 03-Nov-16 10:06:45

Following recent events involving failed school appeals etc. in a moment of rage madness I wrote a strongly worded letter to our MP asking her how/why children's futures should be decided by the word NO. I wrote that the implications of them not getting into any of the four primary schools near home almost definitely means they will not get into the secondary school they can see from their window and will be forced to travel a long distance. I also asked why the appeals process needs to be so horrible and make you feel like you are an innocent person being charged with a criminal offence and that the jury have decided the outcome before the trial. Melodramatic I know.

I had given up hearing back and then yesterday out of the blue I received a call from our MP who said she was very interested and would like to meet up to discuss in detail. Great. Well no not really. I am now in a state of panic and worrying whether I might have made a bad situation worse. We are a Labour council, she is a Labour MP and will undoubtedly take the side of the LEA which I am now worried could mean my DGD's name gets onto some kind of blacklist which would be my fault. maybe I am reading too much into it and getting carried away but I can't help it. Any ideas whether I should cancel the meeting? go? what to say? etc would be most helpful.

vampirequeen Thu 03-Nov-16 10:12:55

Don't worry. It's the MP's job to take up matters like this regardless of political affiliation. You have raised an important point in that failing to get a place in a nearby primary affects the chances of getting into the nearby secondary thereby condemning some children to long journeys to and from school for the next 10+ years. I had to travel to school from the age of 9 and it's not easy. The child has a much longer day than their peers which the associated tiredness.

Granarchist Thu 03-Nov-16 10:15:24

No Definitely go to the meeting. That is what your MP is there for. Good on her for contacting you. She will not "undoubtedly take the side of the LEA" - if she was going to do that - why meet with you?? She could just have sent a letter fobbing you off. If she wants to see you she is already sympathetic. We live in a democracy - she is there to help - so go with all your information, copies of letters, copies of your debriefing comments here, and try not to cry (tho sometimes that does help!) She may not be able to move mountains but her intervention might well help. As for the long term I don't an organisation that punishes children for the actions of their parents/carers. We may sometimes curse the parents but never never take it out on the children. (In my humble experience) GOOD LUCK!

Granarchist Thu 03-Nov-16 10:16:25

typo - should have read "As for the log term I don't know any organisation ......."

Granarchist Thu 03-Nov-16 10:16:50

oh lord - 'long term' - my typing is getting worse

Luckygirl Thu 03-Nov-16 10:18:31

I think your anxieties are unfounded. This is a very positive development. Tell her you do not wish your DGD's name to be brought up in any discussions and that you wish her, as your MP, to take up the issue in principle. Or it may be that your family are happy to use your DGD's name to try and get the place that you want - I am sure you will ask them what they think beforehand.

It is a question of what outcome you are seeking:
- the right school for DGD
- the system to improve
- or both

I wish you every good luck with all this.

icanhandthemback Thu 03-Nov-16 10:23:31

I once wrote a strongly worded letter to my GP about my DD's situation with the DWP. It was amazing how fast everything was resolved to our satisfaction. I am sure your DGD's name will not be blacklisted and you don't need to worry. Just gather the facts/paperwork together and let the MP know just what is going on in her Constituency. Good luck.

gillybob Thu 03-Nov-16 11:18:54

I am not expecting her to be able to obtain a place for DGD in one of the schools. What I really want is for the LEA to be made to understand that the appeal process is very wrong and that they should look at individual circumstances instead of automatically taking the side of the school. I also would like to see a fairer system where it isn't who you know or how rich you are that determines who gets into which school and that children who (despite their best efforts) cannot get into a feeder school should still have an equal/fair chance of getting into the secondary school.

I am hopeless at face to face situations as my language skills are not very good at the moment (getting worse by the day) and I struggle to find the right words or terminology to use which makes me panic even more. Don't want to make a complete idiot of myself.

rosesarered Thu 03-Nov-16 11:37:41

Definitely go and state your case gilly after all, she is there to help all in her constituency not just those that voted for her ( although you may have done) and if you didn't and she helps you, you may well vote for her next time!
Just be yourself, it will help your case more than if you appear to be a know all lawyer type of person. Good luck.🍀

Luckygirl Thu 03-Nov-16 11:39:24

Could you take someone else with you? Could you simply explain that you find the situation a bit threatening and ask her to bear with you if you struggle a bit - I am sure she will understand. I always think that honesty in these situation is best - you can say this in a positive way.

Your written language skills leave nothing at all to be desired! smile

grannypiper Thu 03-Nov-16 11:46:53

Go and fight for your Granddaughter, she will be proud of you in years to come

Granarchist Thu 03-Nov-16 13:00:35

Luckygirl is right - take a friend and explain why and take everything you possibly can in writing, I so wish I could help.

daphnedill Thu 03-Nov-16 13:14:51

The issue is that schools are responsible for their own admissions policies (not the LA), which can (as in your case) mean that children stand very little chance of being offered a place at the nearest secondary school.

Sorry to tell you this, but the appeal is irrelevant. Getting a place at a particular primary school, so that the children could get into a secondary school was never going to be a valid reason for appeal, nor are the travel arrangements.

The appeal didn't automatically take the side of the school. It applied the law as it stands.

Your MP will be interested in the general application of admissions arrangements and that's what you should focus on. There's a conflict between schools and the LA. The LA cannot influence admissions arrangements, although they end up picking up the pieces.

gillybob Thu 03-Nov-16 13:29:38

Perhaps I worded it badly daphnedill but the thing is that the LEA quite clearly were on the side of the school and nothing I or DDiL said was going to make any difference whatsoever. Should the 2 ladies from the LEA have been allowed to sit in a private room with the head and the secretary from the school? No. But they did. Should they have all sat together in the hearing? Making me and DDiL sit on the other side (as though we were in court)? No. Should the lady from the LEA have been allowed to make excuses for the so called "mistakes" in the documentation supplied by the school? No.

It was NEVER a case of only wanting them to get into the primary school in order to get into the secondary school but they go hand in hand and this should not be allowed. Failure to get into a "feeder" (god how I hate that word now) should not automatically mean failure to get into local secondary school.

gillybob Thu 03-Nov-16 13:35:20

Thank you Luckygirl and Granarchist I'm not sure who I could take along with me but I will have a think about it and I will (If I decide to go) definitely try and explain my MS and the "words" thing at the start of the meeting. Once my words fail me I am on a downward spiral and then forget even the most basic of words! Having said that, language skills (written or spoken) were never my strong point although I do/did enjoy both very much, I just tend to end up rambling. smile

daphnedill Thu 03-Nov-16 13:59:26

Is the primary school a local authority school? In which case, they had every right to be with representatives from the school, because the school is in its control.

If it's a voluntary aided school or academy, it's a different matter.

Sorry, but the question of the secondary school was irrelevant, as were travel arrangements.

The secondary school is responsible for its own admissions criteria. Personally, I don't think feeder schools should be high up on the list for admissions, but it's legal and that's what your MP might wish to challenge. It's happening in authorities of all different political persuasions, so it's not a party political issue. I also don't think schools should be able to set their own admissions criteria. The real problem is that schools have been encouraged to compete with each other and are not allowed to keep places free for children moving into the area. Again, your MP might want to challenge that. What happens (as you've found out to your cost) is that parents from outside the traditional catchment area take places from those living nearer, because they are exercising their freedom of choice. 'Choice' is a daft and unfair policy, because one person's choice is at somebody else's expense. Popular schools can't just keep taking more children.

I would seriously urge you to go to the CAB or, at least, contact somebody on Mumsnet with extensive experience of admissions.

daphnedill Thu 03-Nov-16 14:00:17

If you think you're going to ramble, write down what you hope to achieve.

Luckygirl Thu 03-Nov-16 14:03:56

One of the things that you probably want to achieve (which has nothing to do with immutable laws) is that the process should become humane and polite. The way you were treated is inexcusable.

gillybob Thu 03-Nov-16 14:10:58

That is exactly what I hope to achieve Luckygirl and I most definitely will take some notes in with me daphnedill together with a list of some of the words I always struggle with.

The secondary school admissions policy is; (in order of priority)

1) Feeder primaries
2) Siblings
3) Looked after children
4) Measured distance

Having spoken to the admissions secretary she informs me that in her 3 years in the job role they have never reached number 4.

Anya Thu 03-Nov-16 14:13:31

Gilly this is a positive step. Write down, in large bullet points, the main points you want to make, on a post card or similar. And don't be afraid to refer to it openly so,to keep to your script.

But take each one in order and take your time, don't rush. Let the point be made and discussed before moving on. Don't return to a point once it has been discussed or that way you'll end up going round in circles.

For each bullet point have a couple of questions to put to the MP such as how the process works, ought to work or the legality of it. Use these questions to test her understanding of the process and her attitude to you and build on these.

Best of luck

Penstemmon Thu 03-Nov-16 14:20:47

Go to the meeting! The fact that they are all Labour makes NO difference!

State the facts of the case clearly
Tell her the impact on the lives of the children, their parents and on the wider family.

Write it all down and refer to your notes..that its what I have done when I have been to see local MP. They are just ordinary human beings. Will keep everything crossed for you ..good luck!

Penstemmon Thu 03-Nov-16 14:21:33

oops..Anya and I coming from the same place.. crossed posts!

Anya Thu 03-Nov-16 14:27:05

Coming from similar experiences too methinks wink

Jalima Thu 03-Nov-16 14:41:26

Yes, do go and meet her and, if possible, take a supporter with you.

And be prepared with points to bring up as other posters said, make sure of the facts, tell them what you felt was wrong with the appeals procedure itself and how it makes parents/grandparents feel, reduces the child to a statistic, without getting too upset about it.

gillybob Thu 03-Nov-16 14:55:01

I hope she doesn't ask me whether I voted for her blush because I didn't. Not because I don't support her Labour values, because I very much do, just because our town needs a bloody big kick up the pants and the council is so complacent and...........

Very wise words from everyone. Thank you all so very much. I knew I could rely on you all for good, sensible advice..... onwards and upwards !