Hampshire County Council (19 004 725)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 03 Jul 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the school admission panel was at fault in refusing his appeal for a school place for his child. It is unlikely we would find fault by the appeal panel acting on the Council’s behalf.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains the School was at fault in refusing his appeal for a school place for his 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 considered Mr X’s complaint and the appeal documents provided by the Council. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and invited his comments.

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What I found

  1. Mr X applied for a school place for his daughter to transfer to secondary school in September 2019. The school for which Mr X applied was oversubscribed so. The Council therefore applied its oversubscription criteria and refused Mr X's application.
  2. Mr X appealed against the decision. In support of his appeal, he said his daughter suffered from anxiety and should not be taken away from her friendship group. He believed their chosen school would provide a better environment for her and that the decision not to admit her was unfair. The school admission appeal panel refused the appeal. Mr X believes it was wrong to do so.
  3. Independent school admission appeal 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 Mr X's appeal hearing indicate that he was able to present his case, and that his grounds of appeal and supporting evidence were available to the members of the appeal panel.
  4. Having considered the cases made by Mr X 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.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault in the panel’s handling of Mr X’s appeal.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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