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Coloma Convent Girls' School, Shirley (21 004 888)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Miss 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 Miss 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 the Miss X and the School which included the appeal papers.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. Miss X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of my decision.

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My assessment

Background information

  1. Miss X applied on time for her 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 in the same admissions criteria as Miss X but with more points. The Council offered Z a place at School D, which is another Catholic School.
  3. Miss X appealed for a place at this School. She said:
    • She wanted Z to have a Catholic education;
    • She liked this school as she believes it has good discipline;
    • The allocated school is too far away.
  4. An independent appeal panel considered her appeal in June 2021 by video hearing. It decided not to award her a place. Miss X disagreed and complained to the Ombudsman.
  5. Miss X says the appeal panel did not properly consider her case. She says she supplied evidence from the priest showing she had not been allocated enough points. She says she should have been allocated more points and this would have given her a place. She believes Z deserves a place.

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. Miss X supplied a letter from her priest saying she is a regular attender. To get extra points she would need evidence to show she attends once a week rather than two to three times a month. The appeal panel considered her evidence and decided it was not strong enough to allocate the extra points for weekly attendance. The priest did not say the family attend weekly.
  5. The appeal panel’s detailed decision letter records the reasons Miss X gave the appeal panel for wanting a place.
  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.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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