Leeds City Council failed to follow guidance on summer-born admissions when deciding when an August-born girl could start school, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The Ombudsman heard the girl’s mother had applied to postpone her daughter’s school start last year, because she felt it was not in her best interests.
A panel set up by Leeds City Council considered the mother’s application, but applied the wrong test. Instead of deciding whether the girl should join reception or Year 1 in 2021, it looked at whether she should start reception in 2020 or 2021.
The council decided the girl’s needs could be fully met in her chronological year group and it would not be in her best interests for her to start out of that year group. It said the girl should start reception in September 2020 and if her mother declined she would need to apply for a Year 1 place in 2021.
The mother complained to the council and explained why she thought it had not made the right decision, but the council did not properly take into account her concerns.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“The key point in this case is that the parent decides when their child starts school, and the council decides in which year group.
“Government guidance states admission authorities must make decisions based on a child’s individual needs and abilities and consider whether these can best be met by them starting school in reception or year one.
“They should also take account of the potential impact of being admitted into year one without first having completed the reception year. In this case, the council did not do this and so we have found fault with its decision-making process.
“I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations to improve its decision making for other young children in the city.”
The girl has now been given her place in her chosen school.
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 should apologise and pay the mother £150 for her time and trouble in bringing the complaint.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review all pending and recent decisions in the last 12 months covering requests from parents of summer-born children for delayed entry to reception. It will consider whether those decisions have been properly made, following the School Admissions Code and Government guidance, and remake any decisions that have not done so.
The council will also provide the Ombudsman with a copy of the review and provide training to panel members and relevant council officers on summer-born admissions to ensure the correct decision-making process is followed when considering future applications.
Article date: 23 July 2021