Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 21 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs B’s complaint that the Council was at fault in refusing her appeal for a school place for her daughter. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Mrs B, complains that the Council was at fault in refusing her appeal for a school place for her daughter.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Mrs B has said in support of her complaint and the appeal documents provided by the Council.
What I found
- Mrs B applied to transfer her daughter between schools. The school to which she applied had no vacancies in the Year 5 group and the Council therefore refused the application.
- Mrs B appealed against the Council’s decision. In support of her appeal, she set out the difficulties her family was suffering and their intention to move close to the school. She did not attend the appeal hearing, at which appeal panel considered her written submission and the case put forward by the panel.
- The appeal panel refused Mrs B’s appeal. She believes the decision was unfair, given that another appeal was upheld. She wants the Council to reconsider the matter and offer her daughter a place at the school.
- Independent school admission appeals 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.
- The panel must then consider whether admitting another child would prejudice the education of others. If the panel finds there would be prejudice, it 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.
- 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.
- The clerk’s notes of the appeal hearing show that the panel considered the submission Mrs B made. The weight the panel members chose to give to the evidence was a matter for their professional judgement and there is no evidence of fault in the way they made the decision to refuse the appeal.
- Without evidence of fault on the panel’s part, the Ombudsman cannot criticise the decision it made, or intervene to substitute an alternative view.
- Decisions on appeals must be made on the merits of the individual cases. The fact that another appeal was successful has no bearing on the decision on Mrs B’s appeal.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman