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St Hilda's C of E High School, Liverpool (22 003 315)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Jun 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about an unsuccessful appeal for a school place. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complained about an unsuccessful appeal for a school place.

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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 Mr X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and information from the School. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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What I found

  1. Mr X’ s son (Y) is due to start secondary school in September 2022. Mr X wants him to attend School Z – where his sibling is already a pupil. Because there were more applications than places available at School Z, it used its oversubscription criteria to decide which children it would offer places. The School did not offer Y a place. Mr X appealed the decision. In his written appeal Mr X explained why he wanted Y to attend the School. This included the problems Y would have travelling to the School he had been offered.
  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 that:
    • The panel decided the School’s admission arrangements complied with the law and had been properly applied to Mr X’s application.
    • Mr X had the opportunity to present his case.
    • The panel considered the information Mr X had sent supporting his appeal.
    • The panel decided the evidence put forward in support of Mr X’s appeal was not strong enough to outweigh the prejudice admitting a further child would cause the School.
  4. The clerk’s letter explained the panel’s decision.
  5. I understand Mr X is disappointed with the panel’s decision. But we are not an appeal body, and we cannot criticise decisions taken without fault.
  6. The evidence I have seen shows the panel followed the proper process to consider the appeal. The panel considered the information provided by Mr X and the School. It is for the panel to decide what weight should be given to each piece of evidence. The decision to refuse the appeal is one the panel was entitled to take.
  7. Without evidence of fault in the decision-making process there are no grounds for us to become involved. That is the case here and so we will not start an investigation.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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