The Buckinghamshire 11 Plus Selection Review and Appeal Process Explained
Nobody wants to have to read this page, and we’re very sorry if your child didn’t get the result they hoped for in their eleven plus exam this October. We hope that the information provided in the Q&A below will begin to explain the confusing process of 11 plus selection reviews and appeals in the Buckinghamshire region, should you decide to go forward with this option for your child.
My child didn’t pass the Buckinghamshire Eleven Plus exam. Should I appeal?
First and foremost, it’s important to bear in mind that the words ‘review’ and ‘appeal’ are not interchangeable for the Buckinghamshire eleven plus exam. They are two separate things. The review (should you choose to launch one) comes ﬁrst. This, if unsuccessful, can be followed by an appeal, but an appeal can also be lodged without having gone through the review process ﬁrst. A more detailed breakdown of the diﬀerences between reviews and appeals can be found further down this page.
The question as to whether or not to appeal your child’s eleven plus exam result is probably the hardest one to answer. Only you (and your child’s school) will know if your child was really capable of achieving a better result on the day of the exam. Talk to your child’s teachers as soon as you can, as they will tell you whether or not they are prepared to support you, and to what level.
Remember that the eleven plus exam is designed to allocate your child into a school that is the best place for them academically, so please do seriously consider whether your child would excel better at a non-Grammar option. Finally, make sure that you talk to your child, and consider their own preferences when coming to a decision about whether or not to appeal their result. They may have found the whole process enough stress already, so it could be best to let sleeping dogs lie rather than to continue the suspense any longer.
However, if you are conﬁdent that appealing your child’s result is the right thing to do, keep reading to ﬁnd out the right steps to take and when to take them.
Is an 11 Plus Selection Review the Right Thing For Your Child?
Remember that the eleven plus exam is designed to allocate your child into a school that is the best place for them academically, so please do seriously consider whether your child would excel better at a non-Grammar option.
Finally, make sure that you talk to your child, and consider their own preferences when coming to a decision about whether or not to appeal their result. They may have found the whole process enough stress already, so it could be best to let sleeping dogs lie rather than to continue the suspense any longer. However, if you are conﬁdent that appealing your child’s result is the right thing to do, keep reading to ﬁnd out the right steps to take and when to take them.
However, if you are conﬁdent that appealing your child’s result is the right thing to do, keep reading to ﬁnd out the right steps to take and when to take them.
What score is ‘close enough’ to bother with an 11 Plus selection review or appeal?
In previous years, it’s been quite a commonly held view that any score of 116 or above had a reasonably decent shot at appeal, but anything below that wasn’t really worth it. However, the changing of the exam in recent years has caused the score spectrum to widen quite dramatically, so it may still be worth considering a selection review/appeal even if your child scored below this (providing you have enough evidence to support your claim).
What’s the diﬀerence between a ‘review’ and an ‘appeal’? Which is best for my child?
There are important distinctions between ‘reviews’ and ‘appeals’ in the Buckinghamshire eleven plus, so it’s important to understand the diﬀerences between them before moving forward.
The ‘review’ comes ﬁrst, although you do not have to have gone through the review process to then launch an appeal later on. Reviews must be submitted by early November, including any letters of recommendation from your child’s headteacher. If the review is unsuccessful, you may then go on to launch an appeal between early March and the summer of the following year.
However, please note that having gone through a selection review makes it much less likely that your appeal will be successful. Any case submitted for appeal will only be considered if your child’s selection review is found not to have been conducted in a way that was fair, consistent, and objective according to the School Admission Appeals Code of Practice.
However, please note that it is possible to skip the selection review entirely, and go straight on to the selection appeal. Some possible reasons for wanting to do this are outlined further down the page.
What is the selection review and why go for it?
One of the main advantages of the selection review is that the decision will have been made before the ﬁrst round of school allocations, so your child is more likely to attain a place at their preferred school if the review is successful. If you skip this step and head straight for an appeal, you will be appealing directly for a place at your child’s preferred Grammar school(s), in which case oversubscription may become an issue. However, bear in mind that an early November deadline for reviews to be submitted doesn’t give you much time, and may cause undue stress.
Unlike appeals (more information on those later), parents are not allowed sit in on the review process, and the panel will spend a limited amount of time on each case. You will not have a chance to provide more evidence/elaboration for your case later on. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you have provided everything necessary (and, importantly, nothing that isn’t necessary) in your submission. Please note that, for reviews, school work is not accepted as evidence and will not be taken into consideration.
What needs to be included in the selection review submission?
The selection review panel will be looking for two things: ﬁrst and most important is evidence of high academic ability. Second, they will be looking for any extenuating circumstances that could have caused your child to underperform on the day of the test.
How do I provide evidence of high academic ability for the selection review?
This is largely up to your child’s headteacher. You will need their recommendation, which is given in levels. Only level 1 or 2 recommendations will be considered. The headteacher will need to submit their letter of recommendation to the review panel, outlining their recommendation with full explanation. This letter should be supportive but not overly optimistic where evidence is lacking, and must focus strongly on academic capabilities above all else.
As evidence of high academic ability, the review panel will also need to see evidence of well above average grade predictions for reading, writing and maths. In the old system, this equates to Level 5s (5a or 5b is preferable). Under the new system this would be covered by the phrase ‘above expectations’, but the extent of this should be explained in more detail in the head’s letter.
What if I have evidence of extenuating circumstances?
Review panels will be interested to hear if there were extenuating reasons as to why your child achieved below their capabilities on the day of the eleven plus exam, so do make sure you include them in your submission as clearly as possible, along with any evidence you have. Any illnesses in the family/traumatic events in the run-up to the exam could have caused your child to underperform, but it’s best if you can provide evidence (e.g. doctor’s notes, evidence that you expressed concern to your child’s teacher before the exam, a dip in your child’s academic performance before the test day).
Try not to overplay your reasons and certainly don’t make things up – do make sure you include anything you think is relevant, but remember that the evidence of academic ability is by far the most important thing to have.
What are some things NOT to supply as evidence?
Please try hard to steer clear of any overplayed sob stories when it comes to extenuating circumstances (at least where there is no evidence of this causing a drop in academic standards) as these won’t be looked on sympathetically by the panel, and may even harm your case. It might seem harsh, especially if there has been true trauma/bereavement in the family, but the panel needs to be sure they have the hard facts wherever possible.
Please don’t try to provide examples of school work to a review panel, as this is only accepted at appeal level.
Furthermore, try not to spend time over-egging your child’s non academic abilities (e.g. don’t mention that they have a wonderful personality or are a keen football player). Again, this can be seen as a means of attempting to distract the panel from a lack of academic successes, which is all they are really looking for.
Finally, please don’t mention if your child had a tutor/attended classes or mock exams outside of school before the 11+ exam, no matter how well they performed in them. It can be very tempting to include something like ‘my daughter’s tutor informed me that my child scored in the top 30% of all students in her 11+ mock exams’ but this won’t be looked on kindly. Although most children undergo some form of 11+ preparation, this is looked on negatively at appeal and review stage as the panel may question whether a child would continue to be capable of high scores without private tuition.
I’d like to submit for a selection review… what next?
Go to your child’s school and ask the headteacher to ﬁll out a ‘Selection Review Summary Sheet’, which will outline all the above information concerning their level of support for your child’s academic ability. Even if you think you might skip the review and go straight to appeal, this sheet could still prove useful later on, so we really recommend that you request this, even if you decide not to take the review process further at this stage.
What should I write in my selection review cover letter?
There is no magic template you can use to ensure your child is successful in the selection review process. The support from their headteacher and a level 1 or 2 recommendation is far by the most important thing, and you should not try to persuade the review board with anything other than cold, hard facts about your child’s academic ability or any genuine extenuating circumstances… they will see anything else a mile off!
We have, however, helped a number of parents draft their cover letters now, and there are a few simple tips we can offer. They certainly won’t guarantee success, but they will help you make sure you don’t include anything that could harm your case.
Use this 11 plus selection review checklist to make sure you’re on the right track:
- Does your letter contain facts as opposed to opinions? For example, “Bill won the school maths award in 2016 and 2017” is a fact, “I believe that my child is very good at maths” is an opinion.
- Does your letter list only the relevant (i.e. academic) achievements of your child? You can mention if they are proficient in another language or similar as there is an academic aspect to this, but do not mention any sporting/artistic achievements as these won’t be taken into consideration.
- Is your letter written on a single side of A4 paper? If it’s more than that, make it shorter! In our experience, shorter letters that get straight to the point have a much higher chance of being successful.
- Are your extenuating circumstances genuine and not overplayed? Only include extenuating circumstances if you genuinely believe they played a part in your child underperforming in the eleven plus exam. Preferably, you should also have evidence (e.g. a doctor’s note or letter from your child’s teacher saying their academic performance had dropped due to a certain issue.) The review panel reads hundreds of these letters and will not look kindly on extenuating circumstances that provide simple excuses for a child’s poor performance rather than real explanations. Only give the facts about the extenuating circumstances; do not go into detail or provide a ‘sob story’.
Should I skip the review stage and going straight for an appeal?
The most obvious beneﬁt of doing this is that an appeal is far less likely to be successful if your child has previously been unsuccessful at 11 Plus selection review level. This is because the Schools Admission Appeals Code of Practice states that evidence will only be considered for an appeal if the review is found not to have been carried out in a way that is fair, consistent or objective. If there’s no evidence to suggest that the review was unfair, they won’t consider your case any further. However, anyone who has not previously been through the review process is still eligible for a full selection appeal with all evidence considered.
Another beneﬁt of heading straight for the appeal is the extra time it gives you to set your case straight and to gather evidence. Whereas selection reviews have to be submitted in early November, appeals won’t take place until March at the earliest, which gives you much more time to get better prepared. Remember that, in an appeal, you will be appealing for your child to gain entrance to a speciﬁc Grammar school, as the ﬁrst round of place allocations will have already gone through. For this reason, it’s best to include as many Grammar schools as possible on your CAF form, as you may have more success with one than with another.
Furthermore, some parents may ﬁnd the general process and rules of a selection appeal more favourable to their case than a review would be. Reviews are focused solely on the headteacher recommendation and predicted grades, as well as any extenuating circumstances that caused your child to underperform on the day. Although extenuating circumstances can still be considered at appeal, they are less necessary at this level, meaning an appeal still has a decent shot at being successful without them.
A final diﬀerence between reviews and appeals is that parents can sit in on the appeal, answering questions for the panel and bringing in school work as evidence to show them on the day. Please note when it comes to bringing in work that whole exercise books are best – not speciﬁcally chosen single pieces of work. Also, don’t overdo it when it comes to bringing in school work – there won’t be time for the panel to look through everything and it may annoy them!
Will my appeal be looked on unfavourably if I’ve skipped the review previously?
Not necessarily, although be careful with the way you answer any questions about it. The panel’s main concern will be that you skipped the review because you didn’t have the support of the school regarding your child’s academic ability. Explain to them that the reason you decided to skip the review is that you wanted more time to prepare, or that you wanted the opportunity to be present so that you could answer any questions put forward by the panel.
How much time is spent on each case?
This can vary quite dramatically between the selection review and the appeal. Panels have been rumoured to spend as few as seven minutes per case on reviews, which is why you must be careful to include only the most relevant evidence concerning your child’s academic ability and reasons why they did not perform so well on the day. Much more time is generally spent on appeals, and remember that parents are allowed to sit in on these.
I’m confused! Should I apply for selection review or just skip it?!
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer here, as it really depends on each individual case. If you would like a quick decision before the ﬁrst round of school allocations, and you have the strong support of your child’s headteacher (including evidence of academic ability and above average expected levels) then it makes sense to go for the review. If you’d like more time to plan your case, more time spent on it, and would like to present some of your child’s school work to the panel (as well as be there to expand on your case and answer any questions on the day) then you may prefer to wait for the appeal process. In either case, you will need to provide clear evidence to the panel that your child is academically suited to life at Grammar school, so you need to be sure that this is true before proceeding with either option. Neither route is anywhere near guaranteed to be successful, and there are clear beneﬁts and disadvantages to both.
Always bear in mind that your child’s happiness is paramount and that the overall aim of the 11+ exam, selection review and appeal process is to ensure that they will attend a school in which they are able to ﬂourish.
What should I do first?
We cannot stress enough that your first port of call should be your child’s headteacher, but make sure you read all the advice about selection reviews on the Bucks CC website, which also contains further information in their Grammar Schools and Secondary Transfer Testing Guide.