St Gregory's RC High School, Warrington (19 005 069)

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 Mrs X’s complaint that the Council on the School’s behalf refused to give her its admissions appeal panel hearing notes. It is reasonable to expect her to make a data protection act request. And complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office if the school fails to comply.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, says the Council on the School’s behalf, refused to provide her with a school admissions appeal panel’s notes.

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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 must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint. I considered Mrs X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X says, in the middle of June, the school’s admissions appeals panel heard her appeal for a place for her child. She says following the appeal she asked the appeal’s clerk, who is a Council officer, to provide her with the notes from the appeal hearing. She says he refused. Mrs X believes she is entitled to the notes and would like them. She would like to see the notes to check the appeal panel considered the points she made at the appeal.

Analysis

  1. The Data Protection Acts allows for people to ask for documents and information about them, from public bodies. This is a subject access request (SAR). Parliament set up the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to oversee SAR requests and take action if a public body does not comply with a request. It is reasonable to expect Mrs X to make a SAR request.
  2. Mrs X says it is unfair she has to make the request for information she believes she is entitled to see. We do not normally investigate complaints about a data protection act breach when it is the sole issue and I see no reason this should not apply in this case.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is reasonable to expect Mrs X to use the SAR process and complain to the ICO if the school does not comply.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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