School Admissions for children with JIA

jiamama Member Posts: 6
edited 5. May 2013, 17:45 in My child has arthritis

My 4 year old child was diagnosed with Polyarticular JIA last summer. Time has now come to apply for schools. I had hoped that due to her medical conditions I would be successful in applying to schools that have good access (due to my daughters mobility issues when she has a flare I had applied to schools on one level) within my borough, however last week I was informed that she didn't meet the 'exceptional medical need criteria'. I'm in absolute disbelief at the ignorance about JIA but also that they could dismiss her as not having any medical needs.

My daughter is currently on Methotrexate, however it doesn't really work well for her, so she experienced a number of severe flares even though she has been on it for some time now.

I would really, really appreciate it if anyone could let me know if they have successfully appealed to a school admissions department on medical grounds.

All I want is for my daughter to be given a fair opportunity and the obstacles seem high.



  • yeltepr
    yeltepr Member Posts: 6
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I am chairman of governors of a Primary Academy and dad to a 15yr old son with JIA.
    Here are some general points that you may well know already:

    Have you applied yet for school admission and been declined your preferred school? If so then you may appeal to the "admission authority" which will vary depending on the type of school. It could be the LA or it could be the Academy Trust or Governing Body.

    All schools have to follow the Admission Code (see DfE website) but can set there own admission policy as long as it complies with the Code. You should examine the admission policy of the schools involved. Most will only refer to Looked After Children, siblings, faith (if a faith school) and distance.

    Schools are clearly not allowed to discriminate on ability (unless selective) or disability but many do not have a selection criteria based on medical need.

    Grounds for appeal are difficult as in most cases you have to show that the school did not adhere to its own policy.

    A school can be "forced" to accept a child with a SEN Statement if that school is named on the statement. I am not sure if that is a route worth investigating.

    Good luck and I hope you get a place where you want one.
  • jiamama
    jiamama Member Posts: 6
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you so much for your reply and insight. Our daughter was not accepted to ANY of our preferred schools even though the admission criteria for all was clear in stating the order if priority was 1. looked after children 2. Exceptional medical need.

    I'm so disappointed in how the system sometimes fails our children and how the board of governors could not support her application in light of the fact I provided evidence from her health carers, as well as a supporting statement.

    The odd seem stacked against us now appealing against this as well as Infant Class Size.

    I would appreciate any advice/ tips for strong arguments.

    Thank you very much.
  • yeltepr
    yeltepr Member Posts: 6
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello again.

    I should proof read my posts - there instead of their - Really!

    Anyway back to the topic.

    I would suggest an appeal on the basis that they have not followed their own Policy if, as you say, criteria 2 was exceptional medical need.

    What type of school is it - Academy, Voluntary Aided, Community?

    I can only speak from experience of being a Governor on the "school" side when sitting on appeal panels. In our case, as a CofE school, these are organised by the Diocesan Board of Education. We are always over-subscribed and we will have 4 or 5 appeals each year.

    Don't be put off by letters from the school discouraging an appeal. We send them out to discourage time-wasters as each appeal will consume Governor and Leadership time and there are always some parents who understandably want to appeal as they are disappointed in the result but know that they don't really have a case of any kind.

    So I suggest you go down the appeal route. Ask the school for information about how their appeal process works. They are usually non-confrontational and often chaired by a "neutral" party. You should present evidence rather than an emotional plea - I have sat on appeals with parents in tears, but I am afraid that emotions alone will not sway a panel.

    Things to consider:

    1 - All material that you sent with your application - you will need to present this (e.g. copies of letters etc). Sometimes this can be lost in the process of admissions.
    2 - What would be the impact for your child of being forced to attend another school
    3 - Why their school is best for your child in terms of their wellbeing
    4 - Why you believe that they have not followed their own process
  • jiamama
    jiamama Member Posts: 6
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you kindly. For your info two schools are community schools and one is an academy.

    Would you mind suggesting what type if medical evidence would be helpful to provide? I've had problems finding a detailed definition of what is considered an 'exceptional medical need'.

    Thank you.
  • yeltepr
    yeltepr Member Posts: 6
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    This is exactly why many schools including the one where I am Chairman of Govs do not have "medical need" as an admission criteria as it opens up a great deal of ambiguity. It is better for us to have a child with an SEN Statement as this (a) removes the ambiguity and (b) defines the resources need to support the child.

    I happened to have a meeting with someone from the Diocesan Board of Education about another matter and I raised your question.

    He said that many schools didn't have the medical need precisely because of the problem of defining exceptional.

    I found this on mumsnet - copied from a post:

    Note that this is a two-stage process: you need to show not only why School A will not do, but (far more importantly) why School B is the only one that will: otherwise the LEA will want to send her to the unpopular and undersubscribed School C at the other end of the boundaries, rather than have to overstep their numbers

    and any argument that teaching standards at School C are substandard are not likely to go down well at all

    so you'd need to find something that is specific to School B (your choice) and be able to motivate why your child needs this more than other children: after all, there is no reason for the LEA to think that some other child deserves the scrotty School C more than yours does; and there are so many of these top 10% children: if the top 10% in every other school in the LEA insisted of getting into this popular school- well, it would get impossible; so LEA would be afraid of creating a precedent

    We were the parents of the wheelchair bound child. We still had to take it to appeal.

    As you can see it isn't straightforward at all. If a child in a wheelchair cannot demonstrate "exceptional medical need" then I am not sure who can. But the advice in this post is right about proving that the school you want is the only one that fits the bill.

    I discussed this issue with my Diocesan Board contact and the best course might be to get a SEN Statement. The Statement will specify the school and that is binding on the authority and any academy that is specified in the statement. I am no expert on applying for a statement - I could ask our school SENCO but I won't see her for a while. There is a lot of official advice on LA and government sites and again forums on Mumsnet discussing this.

    Good luck.
  • jiamama
    jiamama Member Posts: 6
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you so much for your help. It really helped me to understand the process.