Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Sep 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A’s complaint about the decision to refuse her appeal for a school place for her daughter. It is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.
- Mrs A complains that the Council failed to inform her of the date of her appeal hearing, and that the independent appeal panel refused her appeal against the decision not to allocate her daughter a school place.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We cannot question whether an independent school admissions appeals panel’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider if there was fault in the way the decision was reached. If we find fault, which calls into question the panel’s decision, we may ask for a new appeal hearing. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Mrs A has said in support of her complaint and the appeal documents supplied by the Council.
What I found
- Mrs A applied for school places for her daughters when her family relocated. The Council was able to accommodate Mrs A’s younger daughter in the school of her choice. There were no Year 3 places available at the school so the Council refused the application for Mrs A older daughter.
- Mrs A appealed against the Council’s decision not to offer her daughter a place. In support of her appeal she set out the difficulties an adverse decision would cause in taking her children to school.
- The Council wrote to her to invite her to attend the appeal hearing. It sent the notification by post. Mrs A was away and did not return home until after the appeal had been heard. She did not therefore receive the notification. She says the Council had previously corresponded by email, and she expected that it would send her details of the hearing by email. As it did not, she lost the opportunity to attend to make her case.
- The Council is entitled to send documents out by post and I will not criticise it for doing so. In any case, the Council sent Mrs A’s an appeal form by email, and set out the date the appeal was likely to be heard. I do not find that the Council’s actions prevented Mrs A from attending the hearing.
- When hearing an appeal for admission to a school, the independent appeal panel must first consider whether the admission arrangements comply with the law and were properly applied to the case. The panel must then consider whether admitting another child would prejudice the education of others. If the panel finds there would be prejudice the panel must then consider each appellant's individual arguments. If the panel decides the appellant's case outweighs the prejudice to the school, it must uphold the appeal.
- The Ombudsman does not question the merits of decisions properly taken. The panel is entitled to come to its own judgment about the evidence it hears.
- Mrs A's grounds of appeal were available to the members of the appeal panel. Having considered the cases made by Mrs A and the admission authority, it was for the panel to decide how much weight to give to the evidence before it. There is no evidence of fault in the way it did so. In the absence of evidence of fault, the Ombudsman cannot criticise the decision the panel made, or intervene to substitute an alternative view. That being the case, the Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A's complaint.
- That the Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman