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North Lincolnshire Council (21 004 882)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 19 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Miss B’s complaint about the decision to refuse her application and appeal for a school place for her daughter. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Miss B, complains that the Council was at fault in refusing her application and appeal for a school place for her 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 a school admission appeal 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 considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant now has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.

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My assessment

  1. Miss B applied for a place for her daughter at a Junior school for admission in September 2021. The school received more applications than it had places available, so the Council applied its oversubscription policy. It refused Miss B’s application.
  2. Miss B appealed against the governors’ decision. She made written representations and attended an online appeal hearing. The appeal panel considered her representations but refused her appeal. Miss B believes it was at fault in doing so, in that it failed to properly consider her case.
  3. School admission appeals panels must follow the law when considering an appeal. The panel must consider whether:
  4.  
  • the admission arrangements comply with the law;
  • the admission arrangements were properly applied to the case.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The clerk’s notes of the appeal hearing show Miss B was able to make her case and the panel considered it. There is nothing to suggest fault in the way it did so. The decision the panel members made was a matter for their judgement. Without evidence of fault, the Ombudsman cannot criticise their decision, or intervene to substitute an alternative view. There are therefore no grounds for us to investigate the complaint.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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