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Wokingham Borough Council (19 020 318)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 14 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint that the Council refused his appeal for a school place for his daughter. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr B, complains that the Council was at fault in refusing his appeal for a school place for his daughter.

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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 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr B has said in support of his complaint and the appeal documents provided by the Council. I have also considered Mr B’s response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B applied to transfer his daughter between schools. The school to which he applied had no vacancies in the Year 5 group and the Council therefore refused the application.
  2. Mr B appealed against the Council's decision. He attended the appeal hearing to make his case in person. The appeal panel refused Mr B's appeal. He says the decision has caused difficulty for his family and has led to his daughter missing school. He wants the Council to reconsider the matter and offer his daughter a place.
  3. 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.
  2. The panel must then consider whether admitting another child would prejudice the education of others. If the panel finds there would be prejudice the panel 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The clerk's notes of Mr B’s appeal hearing show that he was able to make his case to the panel. 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.
  5. Without evidence of fault on the panel's part, the Ombudsman cannot criticise the decision it made, or intervene to substitute an alternative view. We will not therefore investigate Mr B’s complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault on the Council’s part.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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