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Masthead Education - Schools

Council told to reconsider school admission appeal after LGO investigation

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has called on Nottingham City Council to offer a fresh schools admission hearing to a young boy who needed to move school because of ‘honour’ based violence.

The LGO said the boy’s mother had applied for her son to move into Year Five at the new school, because she wanted him to attend a school that no other family members attended.

The council refused that application because the school was full.

However, the LGO said that when the mother appealed the council’s decision, the appeal panel did not follow the proper procedure and subjected her to an inappropriate line of questioning.

The Ombudsman said that, during the appeal panel hearing, the mother was not given the opportunity to state her case. “Instead, an officer grilled the mother, asking her the same question many times in different ways. The chair of the panel did not step in to stop this sort of questioning, despite the mother clearly becoming distressed during the proceedings.”

The LGO has recommended that Nottingham:

  • apologise to the mother
  • arrange a fresh Year Five appeal with a new panel, clerk and presenting officer
  • ensure appeal personnel are properly trained and understand their legal role, including their functions as set out in the Schools Admissions Code.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “School appeals panels are not courts of law – and parents should not be cross examined as though they are witnesses taking the stand. The level of questioning this mother had to face was not appropriate for an admissions appeal.

“It is for the panel to consider whether admitting another child to the school would have a significant effect on those pupils already in attendance, not for it to ‘prove’ someone’s case is wrong.

“Nottingham City Council now need to revisit the report I have issued, learn from it and take the actions I have recommended to remedy the situation for the family.”

Nick Lee, Head of Access and Inclusion at Nottingham City Council, said: “We regret any distress that was experienced by the appellant and are sorry that she feels an injustice has occurred.

“We were supportive of the request to move her child to a different school because of her personal circumstances, and she was offered a choice of places that were available at other local schools. These met her criteria of no extended-family connection with the school.

“The partner agencies named in the LGO report, who were supporting the family, shared the approach adopted by the City Council. However, these options were rejected by the appellant who chose to only seek a place at one, heavily-oversubscribed school."

Lee added: “We believe that the service we provide is fair and balanced. The appellant provided substantial written submissions for the hearing and also gave verbal statements. All information submitted by her was taken into account by the appeal panel, which is independent of the City Council, when reaching its decision.

“Nottingham City Council always takes decisions of the Ombudsman seriously and, following substantial re-drafting of the report after concerns were raised by the Council, we will comply with its recommendations. We will also review our processes in light of the Ombudsman’s comments as we would always do.”  

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