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Archbishop Temple School, Preston (19 008 743)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 20 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms X complains of fault by the School in refusing a place in Year 7 for her son, Z, and of further fault in the appeal process that followed. There was no fault by the School.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call, Ms X, complains of fault by the School after she applied for a place in Year 7 for her son, Z.
  2. Specifically, she says the School:
  • Wrongly refused Z a place;
  • Took too long to arrange an appeal and did not handle it well; and
  • Took too long to arrange a second appeal.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
  2. 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 admission authority’s decision, or 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 admission authority’s decision or 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 checked the School Admission Appeals Code 2012 (the Code). I considered application and appeal documents the School provided. I shared a draft of this decision with both parties and invited their comments. I received none.

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What I found

Application for a place

  1. The School was heavily over-subscribed for 2019 admission to Year 7. Where there are not enough places, it admits children under different categories based on their faith or otherwise. The tiebreaker in each category is distance. The evidence I have seen shows Z was placed in the correct category, based on his application. It also shows he lived further away from the School than the last successful child in his category. It is not relevant that children in other categories may live further from the School and obtain a place. I do not find the School at fault.

The timing of the appeal and how the School handled it

  1. National offer day for secondary school places is 1 March each year, or the first weekday of that month. The Code says admission authorities must allow parents 20 school days to appeal. Following that, the Code says admission authorities have 40 school days to arrange the hearing.
  2. The earliest date the School could have set as the deadline for submitting appeals would have been 29 March 2019, 20 school days after national offer day. Ms X appealed on 31 March 2019, which means the deadline cannot have been earlier in this case than that. 40 school days after 31 March is 17 June 2019. This allows for ten days school holidays at Easter, five days school holidays in late May and one day for the May Day holiday.
  3. The hearing took place on 5 June 2019, which was within the maximum time allowed. I do not find the School at fault.
  4. Although Ms X’s complaint was not specifically about the conduct of the appeal hearing, I checked the clerk’s notes and the decision letter after the hearing. These show the panel considered the case Ms X put forward, but that it decided her case did not outweigh the School’s case that admitting Z would cause prejudice to the efficient education of other children. The panel was entitled to refuse the appeal, having considered the case put forward by Ms X. I find no fault by the panel.

Taking too long to arrange a second appeal

  1. There is no right to a second appeal except in limited cases. One of these is where the Ombudsman finds fault in the original appeal. But a second appeal is also possible if the admission authority decides there are new circumstances that give grounds to accept a second application for a place in the same school year. In such a case, the admission authority would then have to refuse the second application to trigger the right of appeal.
  2. Ms X asked the School on 12 July 2019 to reconsider its decision. The School decided on 9 September 2019 there were no new circumstances to justify this. That was a decision it could make without fault. I do not therefore find it delayed arranging a second appeal as there was no right to a second appeal. I do not find the School at fault.

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Final decision

  1. I have not upheld the complaint as the School was not at fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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