Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Appeals panels pinned

There has been a rush of rulings by the local government ombudsman overturning decisions made by admission appeals panels. What is dispiriting is that many of the criticisms echo ones made by the Council for Tribunals back in 2002. The general points levied against appeals panels are:

  • failure to give reasons for rejecting parents' appeals in sufficient detail for parents to understand why they have been rejected

  • failure to admit up to the admission limit

  • cancelling a parent's late application

  • refusal to admit on the grounds that the parent failed to provide proof of residence without any attempt to pursue the matter

  • a school failing to 'refresh' the panel over a period of years, creating the danger that the panel will over time begin to take on the school's point of view

  • refusal to allow a parent to see the report written on his or her child

  • the chair of the panel going into the school to see first-hand how crowded the school was, regardless of the danger that he or she might then be open to an accusation of being lobbied by the school or having compromised independence

In a period where admissions are a matter of great controversy, it is important that appeals panels and their clerks have proper training so that errors that lead to actual or apparent unfairness are eliminated.

The ombudsman has the power to levy fines and although the amounts are not great, the admission authority has to pay it.

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