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Popular Surrey school to rehear place appeal following Ombudsman investigation

An over-subscribed Surrey school has agreed to rehear a mum’s appeal for a school place after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found issues with the way the original hearing was recorded.

The mum applied for a Year 7 place for her son to start at St Andrew’s RC School in Leatherhead, in 2021. Because the school was over-subscribed, and the boy’s application did not fall within the first few application categories, it was not successful.

The mum appealed the school’s decision, and this was heard by an appeal panel. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, none of the appeal hearings were held face-to-face. The mum complained the school did not follow the proper procedures when it rejected her appeal.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the clerk failed to take an accurate record of the hearing, including the proceedings, voting and reasons for the panel’s decision at the time of the hearing. Instead, the notes provided to the Ombudsman were drafted some time after the event.

The notes do not show the panel properly considered whether the admission arrangements complied with the law and whether they were correctly and impartially applied to the son’s case. They also failed to demonstrate the panel had looked properly at the impact on the school of admitting an extra child against the mum’s reasons for wanting her child to attend.

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

“The school’s failure to keep an accurate record of the proceedings has caused this mum the distress of not knowing whether her son might have been offered a place had the appeal been considered properly.

“Although we cannot say what the outcome might have been had the panel properly considered the mum’s appeal, we can say its faults have caused her some level of distress.

“I’m pleased the school has already offered the family a new hearing with a fresh panel, and hope its proper consideration of her appeal will give the family some level of certainty over her son’s future education.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares the learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the school has agreed to apologise to the family and offer the fresh appeal.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the school will review its arrangements for conducting appeals and its contractual arrangements with the local authority appeals service.

Article date: 16 June 2022