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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 20:04 GMT
11-plus appeal result has arrived
girls using school computer
The result means friends will remain united at school
One "reluctant pushy parent" agonised on the BBC News website over coaching her daughter for the 11-plus test in Buckinghamshire - then over whether to appeal following the result...

After four days of stomach-grinding tension, a very ordinary-looking letter dropped onto the doormat.

Its contents were far from ordinary. Bucks County Council... bla, bla, bla ... meet the criteria ... bla, bla, bla....

"Your appeal was successful."

YES! We'd done it. She'd done it. Our daughter had qualified for a grammar school place.

The sense of relief was immense.

Our daughter's hopes of attending the same high school as her closest friends had firmly rested on our shoulders and it had been a heavy responsibility.

But the whoops of joy which reverberated around the kitchen when we told her the outcome of the appeal, was just the best feeling.

There were smiley hugs all round and joyful phone calls to friends and family.

Contrast the scenes of joy with the quiet disappointment 10 weeks before when we learned that she was three marks short of the magical 121 that would guarantee her a grammar school place.

To see our vivacious, exuberant 10-year-old reduced to silence was almost unbearable.

As a mother, my immediate reaction was to want to make it all better and take away the hurt, so like sticking a plaster on a sore knee we said weżd appeal.

But sitting in the head's study it was clear that it would take more than an elastoplast response to overturn her 11+ result.

The odds

About 40% of the 900 appeals last year in Bucks were successful. Not bad odds until you studied the figures more closely and realised that the success rate dropped off very rapidly after all those who scored 120 were removed from the equation.

We'd need all the evidence we could muster - not just proof of our daughter's academic ability and attitude to work, but evidence of her contribution to the school and wider community, extra-curricular activities, sporting prowess, unusual hobbies (thank goodness she played the oboe).

Add to that "mitigating circumstances" such as the tragic death of a much loved family pet the night before the exam and you'd be home and dry.

I exaggerate (slightly), but it still seemed a pretty daunting prospect and we're two reasonably intelligent, articulate people, more than capable of presenting a well-reasoned case.

We found ourselves wondering whether we really had our daughter's best interests at heart - or were we just responding to social pressure, trying to keep up with the Joneses.

The head provided the answer. We had her unreserved support - she had no doubts our daughter would not only survive but thrive in a grammar school environment.

Stressful

So while others were writing their Christmas cards, we wrote to the LEA informing them of our intention to appeal.

It's been an extremely stressful process and not one I'd recommend lightly.

Trying to find documentary evidence to help explain why our daughter didn't perform on exam day was painful enough, and not just because I'm rubbish at filing and the paperwork took some finding.

It also meant raising the dreaded "D word" - dyslexia.

Our daughter is mildly dyslexic and there's ample evidence that dyslexics under the pressure of exam conditions are likely to forget any coping strategies they've learned and make silly mistakes.

It seemed ironic that in a week when the QCA was admitting that more and more children are getting extra time and help in exams because of conditions like dyslexia, we were admitting that we hadn't asked for any special dispensations.

Now here we were, in front of a panel of three fairly formidable Home Counties ladies, sitting in a high court building, arguing that her dyslexia could have made the difference between a pass and fail.

Questioning

So why hadn't we ticked the "disabled box" in the paperwork before she sat the exams?

Because she's not disabled. I was very indignant, it's hard not to get emotional when your child's future is at stake.

We had other grounds for appeal and the questioning continued. It was uncomfortable and rigorous, the panel had clearly heard it all before and wanted to be sure we were telling the truth.

Looking back afterwards it was easy to see why some parents choose to take a lawyer in with them.

In the end we got the result we wanted and the one we had no doubt our daughter deserved.

It's been a long and sometimes bumpy road from the first practice paper to the appeal but at least she got through. Others have made the same journey and failed.



SEE ALSO
11-plus result means appeal angst
27 Nov 07 |  Education
Reluctant pushy parent confesses
17 May 07 |  Education
A parent pushes back
25 Jun 07 |  Education
Q&A: What are grammar schools?
16 May 07 |  Education
Grammars 'ghettos' for advantaged
21 Nov 07 |  Education
Cameron hits back over grammars
16 May 07 |  UK Politics
Children 'do better in grammars'
09 Apr 07 |  Education

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