Privacy settings

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Leeds City Council (19 014 104)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 19 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: there is no fault in the Appeal Panel’s decision not to admit Mr F’s son, B, to the school. The Ombudsman cannot question decisions taken without fault.

The complaint

  1. Mr F complains following his unsuccessful appeal for a place for his son, B, in Year 1 at a primary school. Mr F alleges the Council gave incorrect advice which he says directly contributed to his son not getting a place at the school.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question a school admission appeal panel’s decision simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider if there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
  2. We check the Independent Appeal Panel followed the Code of Practice issued by the Department for Education and the hearing was fair.  We do this by examining the notes taken by the Clerk during the hearing.  We do not have the power to overturn the Panel’s decision, and we cannot give a child a place at the school. If we find fault, which calls the panel’s decision into question, we may ask for a new appeal hearing.
  3. If we are satisfied with a panel’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)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • Mr F’s comments;
    • all the information presented to the Appeal Panel, the notes taken by the Clerk during the appeal, and the Panel’s decision letter following the appeal; and
    • the School Admissions Appeals Code 2012.
  2. I invited Mr F and the Council to comment on my draft decision.

Back to top

What I found

  1. The school is a Community School. The Local Authority is the Admission Authority and is responsible for admissions and appeals.
  2. Mr F applied for a place for his son in Year 1. His application and subsequent appeal were unsuccessful. Mr F complained to the Ombudsman.
  3. The Ombudsman checks the appeal was carried out properly. We do not decide whether Mr F’s son should be given a place at the school.
  4. The School Admission Appeals Code 2012 issued by the Department for Education sets out the process the Independent Appeal Panel must follow when considering an appeal.
  5. No more than 30 children can be taught by a single teacher in an infant class (Reception and Years 1 and 2). If this is not possible without reorganisation or employing extra staff, and this would harm the education of other pupils, “infant class size prejudice” rules apply to the appeal.
  6. When infant class size prejudice rules apply, the Appeal Panel can only legally uphold an appeal if:
      1. the child would have been offered a place were it not for some flaw in the admission arrangements; and/or
      2. the child would have been offered a place if the admissions arrangements had been implemented properly; and/or
      3. the decision to refuse a place was one which no reasonable authority would have made.
  7. The threshold for appeals made under c. above is extremely high. The Panel cannot legally uphold appeals which do not fall into the categories above, no matter how persuasive the appeal otherwise is.
  8. The Panel considered whether the infant class size prejudice rules applied to Mr F’s appeal. There are two classes in Year 1 at the school: one class of 30 children and one of 31. The 31st child is an ‘excepted pupil’ and is not counted when applying the infant class size limit. The Council explained in its submission to the Panel why the school is unable to accommodate additional pupils. The Panel decided, therefore, that infant class size prejudice rules apply to Mr F’s appeal. This is a decision the Panel can take and there are no grounds for the Ombudsman to question it.
  9. The Panel also considered whether the admission arrangements complied with the law and decided they did.
  10. The Panel then considered whether the Council had correctly applied the admission criteria to the application. Mr F’s application was unsuccessful because Year 1 was full. The Panel decided that Council had correctly applied the admission criteria.
  11. Finally, the Panel had to consider whether the decision to refuse Mr F’s son a place was one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.
  12. Mr F submitted a detailed written case before the hearing. This included information he submitted a year earlier when he appealed for a place for his son in Reception. The Clerk’s notes and the decision letter record Mr F’s discussions with the Panel at the hearing. I can see from the papers Mr F appealed on the following grounds:
    • he already has a child at the school;
    • his children currently attend schools which are 0.8 miles apart and Mr F finds the arrangements unmanageable;
    • the school is better than the school his son currently attends;
    • a child has been admitted to Year 1 in circumstances Mr F believes to be identical to his own. Mr F believes his son should have had the place.
  13. These are not factors the Panel can take into account when considering whether a reasonable admission authority would refuse Mr F’s application. A reasonable admission authority can only admit children in accordance with the published admission criteria. The Panel was satisfied Mr F’s application was considered in accordance with the published admission criteria. The Panel could not, therefore, uphold Mr F’s appeal.
  14. Mr F alleges he was misled by the Council when he was told to make an in-year application for a place at the school. He believes this delayed his appeal, and that his son would have been admitted to the school if he had appealed sooner. There is no fault in the Council’s advice or actions.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. I have ended my investigation. There is no fault in the appeal which calls the outcome into question. The Ombudsman cannot question decisions taken without fault.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page