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Ombudsman criticises faith school for poor admissions appeal

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised a Leicester faith school for the way it handled a family’s school admissions appeal.

The Ombudsman said its investigation into the way a panel at Madani Girls’ School in Evington conducted the appeal had found poor record keeping, “which amounted to a piece of paper with three words and three ticks in checkboxes”.

It added that because of the poor minutes of the meeting, the panel could not evidence it had properly considered the family’s appeal.

There was also no record of discussions about whether its admission arrangements complied with the relevant codes and guidance.

“The notes did not record whether the panel had even satisfied itself the school was full, or if more pupils could be accepted,” the LGO said.

The clerk told the Ombudsman that panel members had been taken round the school and the problems of overcrowding were explained to them.

“This meant the panel had access to evidence the parents did not, and left questions about the panel’s independence,” the Ombudsman argued.

The LGO has recommended that the school should:

  • arrange a fresh appeal for the family with a new panel and clerk
  • offer to hold fresh appeals for others who have not had their appeal upheld in this academic year
  • ensure that clerks and panels are properly trained and understand their role as set out in the School Admissions Appeals Code (2012).

However, the school is yet to agree to these recommendations.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Getting a place at the right school can have a significant impact on the education children receive. If they appeal for a school place, parents can only have confidence in the system if the appeals are conducted fairly and transparently.

“In this case there were serious shortcomings in the way the appeal panel recorded how they came to their decision, and the minutes that were taken.

“Panels need to be demonstrably independent and make properly evidenced decisions.

“I now call on the school to take heed of the recommendations I have made to improve its admissions processes for future pupils.”

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