The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr C complained about a school admissions appeal hearing for his son. We have stopped investigating the complaint because Mr C’s son has now been offered a place at his preferred school and we could not achieve a better outcome than this for the complainant.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr C, complains about a school admissions appeal hearing for his son. In particular, Mr C says the appeal panel based its decision to refuse his son a school place on incorrect information about the walking route to the school where his son had been offered a place.
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)
- We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
- it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the papers provided by Mr C, discussed the complaint with him and considered some information from the Council. I have explained my draft decision to Mr C and the Council and provided an opportunity for comment.
What I found
- Mr C moved into the Council’s area and applied for his son to attend a local school. Because there were no places available at Mr C’s preferred schools the Council offered a place at a different school. Mr C appealed this decision but was unsuccessful.
- Mr C complained to the Ombudsman about the appeal process. Mr C considered the appeal panel based its decision to refuse his son a school place on incorrect information about the walking route to the school where his son had been offered a place.
- During my investigation, Mr C explained that he had now been offered a place at his preferred school for his son.
- Where we find fault in the conduct of an appeal which calls a panel’s decision into question, we usually ask the authority concerned to arrange a new appeal as a remedy for the resulting injustice.
- I have not reached a view about whether the appeal panel in Mr C’s case was at fault. But even if I were to find fault which had affected the outcome of Mr C’s appeal, I would not be able to recommend a better remedy than the offer of a school place. I have ended my investigation for this reason.
- I have ended my involvement as further investigation would not achieve a better outcome for the complainant.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman