Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman about schools admissions appeals have fallen by 50% over the past four years, it has emerged.
Between April 2013 and March 2014, the LGO considered 747 complaints and enquiries about schools admissions appeals, compared to the 1,499 it received in 2010 to 2011.
The LGO pointed out how the reduction coincided with a rapid increase in the number of academies and free schools – from 462 to 3,688 – over which it has no jurisdiction.
A quarter of all complaints investigated in detail were upheld in 2013/14.
The Ombudsman’s report, which can be viewed here, sets out some of the issues arising from complaints it upheld. These include:
- children not being considered under the correct ‘excepted’ criteria;
- infant school admissions looked at under the wrong criteria;
- sixth form admissions;
- arrangements for in-year admissions;
- poor clerking of appeals hearings and record keeping; and
- taking proper account of special circumstances.
It said many of the issues were similar to those identified in a previous report on admissions appeals published in 2011.
Stories in the report included:
- An Armed Forces family being disadvantaged because the parent served abroad;
- A six-year-old girl who was without a school place for a term because the local authority did not offer the family a school;
- A child being denied a place at the faith school his sister attended, “despite the school offering places to other non-Catholic children”; and
- A child with dyslexia being unable to sit her grammar school entry exam properly because the school failed to make proper provision.
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “In the vast majority of appeals, parents have no cause to complain to us, but in the stories in this report we have highlighted faults that could have been avoided. Parents have a statutory right to appeal for a place and they need to feel assured that those appeals are carried out fairly.
“By sharing the lessons learned from the complaints that we receive, we hope that admissions authorities make sure that their own arrangements are as effective as they can be and that fewer parents are distressed by the uncertainty that their appeal was not heard correctly.”