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Telford & Wrekin Council (21 004 986)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 02 Aug 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about an unsuccessful appeal for a school place. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault by the panel, and so we cannot question the merits of its decision.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs X, complains about an unsuccessful 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 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)

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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. I gave the complainant an opportunity to comment on a draft decision and considered any responses received.

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My assessment

  1. Mrs X’s daughter (Y) previously attended School Z but had to leave when the family moved. Mrs X wants Y to return to School Z. Mrs X applied for a Year 5 place, but because the school is full, the Council refused her application. Mrs X appealed the decision.
  2. Independent appeal panels must follow the law when considering an appeal. They need to consider if the school’s admission arrangements comply with the law, and if they were properly applied to the appellant’s application. They need to decide if admitting a further child would “prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources”. If they think it would, they need to consider if an appellant’s arguments outweigh the prejudice to the school.
  3. The clerk’s notes from the appeal show the school’s representative explained why it had not offered Y a place at School Z. The notes show what problems the school thought would be caused if it offered further places. In her appeal, Mrs X explained why she wanted Y to attend School Z, and the difficulties it would cause if she was not offered a place.
  4. The appeal papers and clerk’s notes show that:
    • Mrs X and the panel could ask questions about the information presented.
    • The panel decided the school’s admission arrangements complied with the law and had been properly applied to Mrs X’s application.
    • The panel decided admitting further children would cause prejudice.
    • The panel decided the evidence put forward by Mrs X was not strong enough to outweigh the prejudice admitting a further child would cause the school.
  5. The clerk’s letter to Mrs X explained the panel’s decision.
  6. We are not an appeal body and we cannot criticise decisions taken without fault. The evidence I have seen shows the panel followed the proper process to consider Mrs X’s appeal. The panel considered the information provided by Mrs X and School Z. It was for the panel to decide what weight should be given to each piece of evidence. The decision to refuse Mrs X’s appeal is one the panel was entitled to take.
  7. I understand Mrs X is disappointed with the panel’s decision. But without evidence of fault in the decision-making process, there are no grounds for us to become involved.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault in how the panel considered Mrs X’s appeal.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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