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Fortismere school place appeals blunder leaves 15 families in limbo

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 July 2012

Fortismere School. Picture: Martin Addison

Fortismere School. Picture: Martin Addison

Martin Addison

One of north London's top comprehensive schools has told 15 families fighting for a place for their child next September that appeals must be reheard after a "conflict of interest" on the first panels.

At least one of the families affected has hit out at Fortismere School about the bungled appeal process that has left their 11-year-old daughter in limbo for three months.

The families were refused school places for the next academic year but challenged the decision at appeal hearings.

The school in Tetherdown, Muswell Hill, issued a statement saying: “There are 15 appeals to be reheard in September due to a conflict of interest between a member of the original appeal panel and one of the appellants.”

Parents Annette and Clarence Nelson, of Beaufort Drive, Hampstead Garden Suburb, condemned the appeal process as a “kangaroo court”.

Their 11-year-old daughter Jaime has Type I diabetes and they applied to the school under the disability entrance criteria.

Five of her friends will attend Fortismere and her parents are keen that she has a support network to help manage her condition.

Jaime was refused a place but her parents were left angered by the original appeal hearing on June 25 where they were incorrectly accused of not ticking the disability box on her application form by the school.

They had not only ticked the box but included a letter from a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital. They believe they are now suffering the consequences of Fortismere’s mistake.

Mr Nelson, 50, a security consultant, said: “Most definitely there has been a failure of the appeals process. It’s just a really sad situation that they’re making the families scapegoats because of a failing in their own camp.

“We have been left shattered, surprised and bemused. Not in my wildest dreams did I think it would be this hard to find a school place for my daughter.”

Her mother, who works for a property management company, added: “We followed all the guidelines that we’ve been given and we feel like they haven’t adhered to theirs. There’s a hiccup and the system doesn’t work, or someone’s trying to protect the system.”

The Nelsons say they have received conflicting information from Fortismere and have appealed for other families affected to contact them to mount a united response to the school.

A spokeswoman for Fortsimere said: “We regret that the appeals can’t be reheard until September and appreciate the anxiety this may be causing the people affected. We must and we will hold appeal hearings which are proper and fair to all.

“Fortismere is an inclusive school and is proud of the diversity of its intake and its success in integrating students with identified needs so that their potential can be fully realised.”

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