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St. Marys & St. Johns C Of E School (21 004 759)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

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

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the School’s Admissions Appeal Panel did not properly consider his appeal for a place for his 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 the Mr X and the School which included the appeal papers.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. Mr X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

Background information

  1. Mr X applied on time for his child, Z, to have a place at this School from September 2021 in year seven.
  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 who lived closer to the school than Mr X. The Council offered Z a place at School D, which was their second preference.
  3. Mr X appealed for a place at this School. He said:
    • Z wanted to go to this school and is now being reluctant about moving to senior school;
    • Z had friends attending this school;
    • Z was showing signs of anxiety.
  4. An independent appeal panel considered his appeal in June 2021 by video hearing. It decided not to award him a place. Mr X disagreed and complained to us.
  5. Mr X says the appeal panel did not properly consider his case. He says he did not know they had to submit medical evidence in support of their appeal.

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 Mr X gave the appeal panel for wanting a place.
  5. The appeals booklet supplied by the school clearly advises parents to provide written evidence from a doctor or other appropriate medical practitioner or professional in support of any claim based on social or medical grounds.
  6. 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 should 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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