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Coloma Convent Girls' School, Shirley (21 004 741)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint that the Schools Admissions Appeal Panel failed to provide her child with a place at this school. It is unlikely the Ombudsman would find fault which caused her to lose out on a school place.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, says the School’s Admissions Appeal Panel did not properly consider her appeal for a place for her child, Z.

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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 a 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)
  2. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. 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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  3. This complaint involves events that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government introduced a range of new and frequently updated rules and guidance during this time. We can consider whether the Council followed the relevant legislation, guidance and our published “Principles of Good Administrative Practice during Covid”.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Ms X and the School, which included the appeal papers.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. Ms X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

Background information

  1. Ms X applied on time for her child, Z, to have a place at this School from September 2021.
  2. There were more applicants than places. The School applied the published admissions scheme to decide who should get the places. The last place went to a child in a higher admissions’ criteria than Ms X. The Council offered Z a place at School D, which is closer to her home than this school and less than the distance of three miles a senior school child is expected to be able to walk to school.
  3. Ms X appealed for a place at this School. She said:
    • She is a single parent of four children and her neighbour could take Z to this school as her children attended it;
    • Z has two or three friends attending this school and she is shy and
    • She believes this is a good school and the right fit for Z.
  4. An independent appeal panel considered her appeal in June 2021 by video hearing. It decided not to award her a place. Ms X disagreed and complained to the Ombudsman.
  5. Ms X says the appeal panel did not properly consider her case. She says she is considering home schooling. She thinks the appeal panel made the wrong decision.

Analysis

The appeal panel’s and our role

  1. Independent appeal panels must follow the law when considering an appeal. The panel must consider whether the:
    • admission arrangements comply with the law;
    • admission arrangements were properly applied to the case; and
    • admission of another child would prejudice the education of others.
  2. 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. This means it can say a school is full but decide a child’s case is so compelling that it is more important to admit that child than prevent the effects to a school by having one more child.
  3. We cannot question the decision if it has been properly taken. If the panel has been properly informed, and used the correct procedure, then it is entitled to come to its own judgment about the evidence it hears.
  4. The appeal panel’s detailed decision letter records the reasons Ms X gave the appeal panel for wanting a place.
  5. It is unlikely we would find fault in the appeal panel’s decision based on the information I have seen which supports the appeal panel’s decision.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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