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Grammar school should offer fresh appeal following Ombudsman investigation

A Bromley grammar school has been asked to hold a fresh admissions appeal for a teenager wanting to enter its sixth form, and review the way it deals with future appeals, after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found a number of faults with the way it handled his case.

The boy and his father complained to the Ombudsman they had not had a fair hearing when appealing the decision by St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School in Orpington not to allow the boy to join.

The boy had achieved above the required grades in the subjects he wanted to study at A-Level, and had also gained more than the total required points tally to enter, but had missed the grade in mathematics. The school rescinded its offer to the boy.

The Ombudsman looked at the process the school went through when hearing the family’s appeal and found a number of faults in the admissions and appeals processes.

The investigation criticised the school for not writing to the boy to tell him it had refused his place. Instead of advising him in writing of his right to appeal, the head of sixth form directed the family to the school’s website during a telephone conversation initiated by his father. This lack of formal notification meant the school failed to arrange and hear the family’s appeal within 30 days of the boy receiving his GCSE results, as it should have done.

The investigation also found the decision to refuse the boy’s place was taken by the headteacher and head of sixth form, rather than the governing body as a whole, which fails to satisfy the requirements of the Schools Admissions Code. The Ombudsman has also criticised the clerk’s record keeping of the hearing, including not being able to show if the panel considered whether the admission arrangements comply with the law or whether the school had met its duties under the Equality Act.

The appeal panel also did not consider all the points the boy made in his case and also misdirected him on where to go if he was unhappy with the appeal by pointing him to the wrong body instead of the Ombudsman.

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

“This complaint has highlighted some significant faults in how the school deals with applications and appeals, which could affect other young people applying for places at the sixth form. We hope the school recognises this and takes the necessary steps to improve the way it looks at appeals.

“I now urge the school to accept the recommendations in my report and hope they will ensure other children appealing a school place are confident that decisions have been made properly in future.”

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 school should apologise to the teenager and pay him £400 to recognise his injustice and avoidable frustration and distress. It should also pay the father £100 to recognise the avoidable time and trouble he was caused in pursuing the complaint.

The school has also been asked to arrange a fresh hearing for the teenager, with a different panel and clerk to consider his appeal properly.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for others. In this case the school should make a number of improvements to its admission arrangements and appeal process to ensure future applicants and appellants are not affected in the same way.

Article date: 29 April 2021