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Independent Admission Appeals Panels
Local Government Ombudsman Reports: St Edmond Arrowsmith Roman Catholic High School, Wigan (14005154, 14006249 and 14010168) and Kingston-upon Hull City Council (14008195)
Every year there are a number of complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) about the handling of school admission appeals. In two recently reported cases the LGO upheld the complaints, finding various faults with the Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) in both cases and recommended that parents be given fresh appeals.
In the case of St Edmond Arrowsmith Roman Catholic High School, three families who were unsuccessful at the (IAP) complained to the LGO who identified a number of errors, including:-
1. The (IAP) had failed to reach a clear view on whether there would be prejudice if more children were admitted to the school. The IAP in this case had not properly considered whether or not the school was in fact full.
2. Given that the IAP was minded to admit some of the children on appeal without causing prejudice to the school, they then failed to compare individual cases and decide which was more deserving. The notes from the hearing revealed that the IAP had failed to do this and in some cases confused one appeal with another.
3. Some of the decision letters sent to parents after the IAP did not give clear reasons for the panel’s decision and this was also in breach of the code.
In the case of Kingston-upon-Hull City Council, the LGO identified errors with the guidance in the council’s published school admissions appeal booklet:
1. The council published in its booklet about appeals that “if you have been turned down because of the infant class size limit of 30, the Panel must only look at; whether the admission rules were applied wrongly in your case, or if it was unreasonable to turn your child down”.
The published booklet failed to explain that the IAP could also look at whether admitting another child would breach the infant class size and as such the parent was not told she could challenge this.
2. The IAP should also look at whether the admission arrangements were lawful and the LGO concluded that failing to refer to this in its published booklet was also a fault. An IAP must consider whether the admission arrangements comply with the School Admissions Code and legislation.
3. The LGO also found fault with the decision letter and was critical of the admissions authority for failing to provide the parent with information prior to the hearing.
Liz Smith says both decisions are helpful for parents seeking admission to the school of their choice.