London Borough of Lambeth used wrong criteria to consider school admission appeal

London Borough of Lambeth has agreed to revisit its schools admissions complaints procedure following an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

The changes have come following a complaint to the LGO from the parents of a child who did not get into their chosen school.

The investigation found that when the couple appealed, council officers wrongly assessed it as an infant class size appeal, which can succeed only on limited grounds.

The couple were sent the wrong form to complete, which restricted their appeal to the narrowest of grounds. Before their appeal hearing they were by mistake sent the council’s response to another parent’s appeal and when this was realised at the hearing they were not given time to read their own papers before the case was heard. The school’s case was also given to them late, at the hearing, without explanation why.

After the hearing had considered their appeal under the wrong criteria, its faulty decision was sent late, and when the decision was queried the council twice denied the appeal had been considered incorrectly.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman said:

“Although I am pleased to say that Lambeth council has agreed to my recommendations, I have issued a report on the case so other school admissions authorities can learn valuable lessons from these failings.”

To remedy the situation, the council has agreed to rehear the couple’s appeal and will meet any travel and childcare costs. It has noted schools in the borough with an admission number below 30 and will use the correct appeal form for these applicants.

In future the council will also make a number of other changes including providing a full case in advance of any appeal, telling appeal panels to adjourn formally for a suitable period to allow applicants to read any documents given to them at a hearing and to a ensure that letters offering school places explain that applicants have the right to appeal.

Article date: 19 December 2013