Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (19 004 449)

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 B’s complaint that the Council’s school admission appeal panel failed to properly consider her appeal for a school place for her daughter. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mrs B, complains that the Council’s school admission appeal panel failed to properly consider her appeal for a school place for her daughter.

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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 have considered what Mrs B has said in support of her complaint and the appeal documents provided by the Council,

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What I found

  1. Mrs B applied for a school place for her daughter for transfer to secondary school in September 2019. The Council received more applications for her preferred school than it had places available. It applied its oversubscription policy and refused Mrs B's application.
  2. Mrs B appealed against the Council's decision. She made a written submission and attended the appeal hearing to make her case in person. She set out why she felt her daughter should attend the school and that the alternative school the Council has offered was unacceptable. She also argued that the Council had failed to apply its oversubscription procedure properly.
  3. The school admission appeal panel refused Mrs B’s appeal. She believes the panel failed to give sufficient weight to her grounds of appeal.
  4. Independent school admission appeals panels must follow the law when considering an appeal. The panel must consider whether:
  • the admission arrangements comply with the law;
  • the admission arrangements were properly applied to the case.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The clerk's notes of Mrs B's appeal hearing show that the panel considered the points she made in support of her appeal. It decided that her grounds of appeal did not outweigh the prejudice further admission would cause to the school. There is no evidence of fault in the way the panel reached this view. The weight the panel members chose to give to Mrs B's evidence was a matter for them, not the Ombudsman. Without evidence of fault the Ombudsman cannot criticise the panel's decision or intervene to substitute an alternative view.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would identify fault on the Council’s part.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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