LGO forces School to abide by Admissions Code and offer an Appeal.

Mark's picture
by Mark
Due to a blunder by Warwickshire Education Authority, who posted incorrect information on their website during the 2013 admissions process, parents may have been influenced to elect to move address to secure a grammar school place. 29 families submitted a change of address in to the priority area.

Instead of acknowledging the error of the Council the Governors of Lawrence Sheriff School (LSS) failed to make a simple decision on what action to take when a parent simply asked whether they had to move and provided evidence of what the Council advice was. The advice of the Council, prior to applications and registering a change of address was if the child did not move, and would have been awarded a place from the previous address, the place would not be withdrawn.

Instead of honouring the advice their agents gave, the Governors at LSS failed to provide any form of response for over 4-months, with implicit threats of withdrawing a place and claiming a child is not on a list for admissions when failing to send out year 7 information packs. The school simply stated it was seeking legal advice and constantly delayed any decision. What is surprising is that all the school Governors were not even aware of this issue. This begs the question who is behind this stance and why it is occurring. It transpires the Head, Peter Kent was in favour of withdrawing the place as was the Chair of Governors, Anthony Thomas

The school refused to allow the child to attend the year 7 induction day, even though his place was not withdrawn and failed to send a member of staff to his primary school as part of transition. We are led to believe this is unlawful. Two days before the term ended, after almost 4.5 months the Governors withdrew the school place offer on a belief of a fraudulent or intentionally misleading application.
Yet, the Council accepted all the paperwork and confirmed it was in order. The family was not required to move until the first day of term and made it clear that they would move before the first day of term. Clearly, they could not prove fraud unless the family had not moved by the first day of term. The Council never sought more information or data and the family even offered an early morning door knock. The action of LSS appears to be unlawful and a disgraceful course of conduct. WCC accepted all terms were complied with, yet still LSS withdrew the place even though WCC informed them not to do so, and in case he would be be placed at the top of the waiting list and should be re-offered. The family moved as indicated.

The Local Government Ombudsman directed the school to offer an appeal.

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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 11/06/2014 - 13:11

This situation is more complicated than it appears. The Ombudsman has directed Lawrence Sherriff School to offer an appeal, yes. But the Ombudsman also said there were areas which were beyond the Ombudsman's remit.

The final paragraph of the Ombudsman's report makes it clear the independent appeal is the correct forum for deciding whether the application was fraudulent and the Ombudsman would not prejudice the outcome of the appeal by making a judgement on the fraud claim.

Mark's picture
Thu, 12/06/2014 - 18:34

The facts are, the Council stated in writing:
"If evidence cannot be provided because the family are not residing in the property by the beginning of September, then consideration will be given by the Local Authority and the school where a place has been offered based on the evidence provided previously of the new address, and the place may be withdrawn. This would only happen though if a place would not have originally been offered based on the child's old address (or the one from which they never moved)."

Warwickshire County Council confirmed the child would have been offered a place from the old address (in fact any address) as he scored the 17th highest mark. He didn't have to move.

In addition there was no evidence of fraud just a statement "We do not believe you will move." A belief is not sufficient. The family offered an early morning door knock on the first day of term. They moved. So, quite simply, if one does not have to move before the first day of term and the Council accepts all evidence, how can one disprove a belief?
There has to be facts.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/06/2014 - 08:02

Mark - the Ombudsman has made it clear it was beyond the Ombudsman's remit to establish the facts surrounding the alleged fraudulent application. These facts would be considered at the appeal and a judgement made. Until the results of the appeal are published it is not possible to say "there was no evidence of fraud". Conversely, it is also not possible to say there was evidence of fraud.

Mark's picture
Tue, 18/11/2014 - 21:42

The parent won the appeal at the first stage in Nov 2014.

The school argued that is was not for the panel to determine whether there was fraud.

The school also erred - it stated the application was fraudulent or misleading. It cannot be both, it had to be one or the other.

The events:
a.Failing to provide a year 7 information pack whilst offered a place.
b.Failing to send a member of staff to the boy’s primary school as part of transition arrangements, when staff were sent to other schools where boys had been offered and accepted places.
c.Unlawfully refusing to allow the boy to attend year 7 induction day (a once in a lifetime event) when his place was not withdrawn.
d.Unlawfully withdrawing a school place after 4.5 months without establishing breach of rules despite the Council informing them their action was unlawful and the parent had complied with all rules, leaving him without a secondary school place during the last week of year 6 in order to maximise the damage.
e.Undertaking an unlawful re-determination.
f.Refusing to offer the statutory right of appeal as required under the Admissions Code 2012 as they knew they were wrong.
g.Refusing to place the boy on a waiting list.
h.Refusing to process a new application and failing to inform the parent and offering an appeal.
i.Claiming in writing the parent had been treated fairly.
j.The boy ended up with an offer at another grammar schools 30 miles away involving a 3 hours daily commute for the parent.
k.Making false claims to the police claiming harassment due to unwanted communication (compliant letter), which the CPS and police agreed there was no case of harassment.
l.Complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) causing a second investigator to be appointed who came the same conclusion – severe fault in the school and ordered an appeal.
m.Trying to persuade the LGO not to publish its report on its website.
n.The parent called for the Head, Peter Kent (who is also an Ofsted inspector and President of the Association of School and College Leaders) and the Governing Body to tender their resignation.
o.Knowing the appeal panel would uphold the appeal and direct the school to offer a place they filed a case to seek an injunction against the parent one day before the appeal, posting it after the appeal to remove the story on websites as it causes anxiety and distress (harassment). This appears a deliberate ploy to intimidate the parent not to accept the place. The police had already investigated claims and agreed there was no harassment.
p.The independent appeal panel was won at the first stage in 14th November, 2014.

Mark's picture
Mon, 23/06/2014 - 08:39

Unless of course you have seen all the paper work and read what was done, as I have!
Have you ever come across a school that refused an appeal? Why would anyone do that?
Have you ever come across a school that said "reapply" and then refused to process the application? 10 month later there has been no official refusal. WCC refuse to coordinate with Coventry Council and visa versa. How can a school refuse to process an application when address has no relevance on waiting lists as confirmed by WCC .

Mark's picture
Wed, 16/07/2014 - 09:37

The school used a solicitor in the appeal to try and deny entry.
The appeal was adjourned as the school and council refused to provide documents requested. It transpires on 4 occassions the council refused to withdraw the place as in their view it was unlawful. This is contained in correspondence between the school and the Local Government Ombudsman

Mark's picture
Thu, 25/06/2015 - 18:24

The parent won the appeal a the first stage and the appeals panel found no evidence of fraud. So, we have Lawrence Sheriff School who unlawfully withdrew a school place, refused the right of appeal and then lost an appeal. The parent was vindicted and the school still believes it did nothing wrong. Why can schools get away with this behaviour.

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