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.
- 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.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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))
- 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.
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- 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.
What I found
- The school is a Community School. The Local Authority is the Admission Authority and is responsible for admissions and appeals.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When infant class size prejudice rules apply, the Appeal Panel can only legally uphold an appeal if:
- the child would have been offered a place were it not for some flaw in the admission arrangements; and/or
- the child would have been offered a place if the admissions arrangements had been implemented properly; and/or
- the decision to refuse a place was one which no reasonable authority would have made.
- 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.
- 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.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman