November 9th, 2011 by Rachel Kamm

The Local Government Ombudsman has published a focus report on school admissions.

The Ombudsman received 1,195 complaints about admissions in 2010/11; of these 28% led to some kind of remedy for the parents – most commonly, a fresh appeal. The report identifies the following common faults on the part of the local authority and/or independent appeal panel:

  • the admission authority failing to provide adequate written information in good time before the appeal hearing about why the child was not offered a place and why the school is unable to admit additional pupils;
  • the admission authority presenting parents with arguments and information orally at the hearing rather than allowing them to consider the information in advance;
  • the admission authority failing to provide evidence that the school cannot accommodate additional pupils;
  • a panel failing to challenge the admission authority’s case that admitting more pupils would be detrimental;
  • a panel accepting an argument that the school is full – even when the school later acknowledges that it could admit a few more pupils;
  • the presenting officer entering the meeting with the panel and remaining with them after the hearing, leaving parents unsure about the panel’s impartiality;
  • panels going back to admission authorities for clarification of information after the parents have left, or even calling back the presenting officer;
  • panels asking questions of the admission authority but not of the parents;
  • panels hearing cases affecting different members of the same family as one appeal with one hearing;
  • panels not satisfying themselves that the admission arrangements were applied correctly to the child in question. These concerns apply to all admission arrangements, but distance (from home to school) and faith criteria can give rise to particular concerns;
  • panels taking account of irrelevant information;
  • poor recording by the clerk of the panel’s deliberations, decisions, reasons for decisions, and results of panellists’ voting;
  • decision letters failing to give reasons for decisions, so parents cannot understand why their appeal did not succeed; and
  • decision letters failing to refer to and deal with a major point relied on by the parents.

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