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Warrington Council (22 003 488)

Category : Education > School admissions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 16 Jun 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s Schools Admissions Appeal Panel’s failure to provide his child with a place at School Y. 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 Council’s schools 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council who provided the notes from the Appeal Panel.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

Background information

  1. Mr X applied on time for his child, Z, to have a place at School Y in year seven from September 2022. It is not the closest school to their home. There are five closer.
  2. There were more applicants than places. The Council applied the published admissions scheme to decide who should get the places. The last place went to a child closer to School Y 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 School Y. He said:
    • School D is over seven miles from their home and the route to school is not safe.
    • There is a school bus from near his home to School Y and it’s the only school that has a direct bus route from his area.
  4. An independent appeal panel considered his appeal in April 2022. It decided not to award a place. Mr X disagreed and complained to the Ombudsman.
  5. Mr X says the appeal panel did not properly consider his case. He is very worried about how Z will get to School D. He says that since the appeal Z now attends the local primary school. If Z had attended there when Mr X had applied for a place they would have been granted a place at School Y.


The appeal panel 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. 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.
  6. The Council has separate powers to award school transport when a child is allocated a place at their nearest suitable school and either the distance is more than three miles or the route is not safe.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault which caused Mr X the injustice he alleges.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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