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Unfair admission arrangement changes force siblings into separate schools

Nottinghamshire County Council has agreed to pay two families £500 a year because their children missed out on places at their preferred schools after it unfairly changed admissions arrangements, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

Because the council removed priority for families with children already at schools, the two families were left having to take their younger children to different primary schools.

And as their preferred school is full, there is little prospect of the younger siblings of either family being offered a place in the near future.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“The changes Nottinghamshire County Council made to its admissions arrangements have had a significant impact on daily life for these two families, which could last until the older siblings have moved on to senior school.

“In cases like this we would normally ask the council to offer a fresh appeal to the families. But because the school has now converted to an academy, neither the council nor we have any authority over its admissions arrangements.

“I am therefore pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope these will go some way to help these families with their arrangements over the coming years.”

Councillors in Nottinghamshire decided to remove priority in the oversubscription criteria for children outside the schools’ catchment areas who had siblings, over those outside the catchment area who did not.

This decision affected the two families, who applied for reception places at the same school for entry in September 2016. The two families appealed the decision not to offer their children a place, but these appeals were unsuccessful.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled in January 2017 that the new admissions arrangements for September 2017 were unfair.  The council decided to offer second appeals to families affected by the changes in 2016 who might thereby have lost places.

The two families were offered a second appeal, but because the school was full it could not offer them places for their children.

The families are now having to transport their children to different schools in the morning, and make arrangements for after-school clubs or for friends and relatives to help with collecting in the afternoon.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services.

In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the families and pay them each £500 per school year until either the time their eldest children leave the preferred school or the preferred school has spaces for their younger children. It will also pay both families £250 for the distress in being denied the remedy they should normally have been entitled to, and a further £250 each for the time and trouble in bringing their cases to the Ombudsman.

Article date: 23 August 2018