Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (19 003 753)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 02 Jul 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about an unsuccessful school admission appeal. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault in how the panel reached its decision, and so we cannot question its merits.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains about an unsuccessful school admission appeal. She says the panel did not consider all the points put forward in support of her appeal.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mrs X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the papers from her appeal. I also gave Mrs X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on her complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X applied for year 7 school place for her daughter. The Council could not offer a place at the school Mrs X listed as the first preference on her application. In line with its published scheme the Council offered a place at the nearest school with spaces.
  2. Mrs X appealed the decision not to offer a place at her preferred school. Mrs X attended the appeal. During the appeal, the school’s representative explained why Mrs X’s daughter had not been offered a place. They explained the difficulties admitting a further child would cause. Mrs X and the panel had the opportunity to ask questions.
  3. Independent appeal panels must follow the law when considering an appeal. They need to consider if the school’s admission arrangements comply with the law, and if they were properly applied to the appellant’s application. They need to decide if admitting further children would “prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources.” If they think it would, they need to consider if an appellant’s arguments outweigh the prejudice to the school.
  4. The panel decided the school’s admission arrangements complied with the law and had been properly applied to Mrs X’s application. They decided that admitting further children would cause prejudice to the school. The clerk’s notes show that Mrs X explained why she wanted her daughter to attend the school. Mrs X explained her daughter’s friends would be attending the school and transport was available from their home address. The clerk to the panel read out a letter from the headteacher of the primary school Mrs X’s daughter attends. The clerk’s notes show the panel decided the evidence put forward by Mrs X was not strong enough to outweigh the prejudice admitting a further child would cause the school.
  5. The Ombudsman is not an appeal body and we cannot criticise decisions taken without fault. The evidence I have seen shows the panel followed the proper process to consider Mrs X’s appeal. It considered the information it was presented with and the decision to refuse Mrs X’s appeal is one it was entitled to take. I understand Mrs X is disappointed with the panel’s decision. But without evidence of fault in how the panel reached its decision, there are no grounds for the Ombudsman to become involved. An investigation is not therefore appropriate.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about an unsuccessful school admission appeal. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault to warrant the Ombudsman’s involvement.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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