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Displaying items by tag: Ombudsman - Kent Independent Education Advice

Judd School Appeals have taken place this week, with Skinners at the end of the month.  This is for entry in September 2012.


Published in Peter's Blog
Thursday, 29 December 2011 18:11

The Skinners School - a remarkable stand off

Following further problems at The Skinners School's admission appeals last summer for entry in Year Seven September 2011, as the Ombudsman has once again become involved and currently the Governors of the school are refusing to accept his recommendation. I initially commented on these appeals earlier in the year.  This is not the first time the Ombudsman has been involved with the Skinners School and he published a critical Report on the appeal proceedings in 2007, reporting on serious maladministration by the Governors of the school. In 2008, there were two successful complaints about the Governing Body and/or the Appeal Panel, in 2009 there were 4, and in 2010 there was one. Appeal Panels are organised by the Governing Body itself, which has strong representation from the Skinners Company of London. No other Kent or Medway School has had successful complaints upheld in more than two of these four years, the vast majority having none at all. You will find numbers of all successful complaints against Foundation or Voluntary Aided Schools here

However, ...........

Published in News Archive

That's right! I have won two thirds of all successful complaints about maladministration of admission appeal panels for academies  settled by 31st August! To be fair that is two complaints won on behalf of clients out of a total of three upheld across the country (actually they are all for Kent schools). The Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) resolves complaints on behalf of the  Department of Education, replacing the process operated for maintained school Appeal Panels by the Local Government Ombudsman..........

Published in News Archive

The Local Government Ombudsman has today (July 6th) published a highly critical report on the Independent Appeal Panel for Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Girls for entry last September (2010). Whilst no fault was found with the school's actions (apart from engaging a Kent County Council Panel), KCC itself comes in for heavy criticism on a variety of fronts:........

Published in News Archive

Regular browsers of this website will be be well aware of my concerns about the accountability of academies. I have just posted my initial advice and views on complaints about Independent Panels set up by academies to hear admission appeals. Sadly, I am very disappointed.......

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 02 June 2011 00:00

Complaints about Academies

You will find an updated article on the Education Funding Agency outcomes here.

Updated September 2012

Complaints about about the appeal panel process by Independent Appeal Panels organised by academies should be sent to the Education Funding Agency (EFA, the Academy arm of the Department for Education). These should be submitted by sending a completed complaint form by email to or by post to the Admission Appeal Complaints team at the Education Funding Agency. You will find the relevant page of the EFA website here, but will search in vain for advice on how to complain. -There is a laid down procedure to be followed by the EFA here. Following a complaint, the EFA will decide without further input from the complainant, whether there is no fault, whether there is maladministration without injustice, or whether there is maladminstration causing injustice. Only the third decision leads to an outcome that affects the complainant - a fresh appeal lin front of a new panel (not necessarily a new clerk). I am not clear what the process is for Free Schools, as this does not appear to be present on the DfE website or in the documentation. 

If you are seeking advice from the government on the process or what to put in your complaint, you will be disappointed; I think the assumption is that parents are familiar enough with what happesn to be able to work it through for themselves. It is obvioulsy unfortunate that you probably haven't considered this route until after the hearing and so will not have recorded the key issues. However, maladministration or injustice essentially arise from breaches in the School Admissions Appeals Code. Appeals for all other types of maintained schools are to the Local Government Ombudsman, whose website is full of helpful advice for parents, much of which is relevant to complaints about academies.  You will also find further information here

Each appeal decision letter is required (not all do as not all schools or academies are keen on parents complaining!) to tell parents where they go to to complain, but regrettably some are still wrong.  

I have considerable experience in supporting parents through the Ombudsman process, where I am able to identify all key issues and simply take over the process if you wish, greatly reducing stress and time spent, and using my expertise to maximise your chances of success (I will also tell parents honestly if I can't see a way forward). I now have successful experience of taking complaints on maladministration of Appeal Panels to the Secretary of State  and am very happy to continue this, my own track record having seen 35 successes from my last 40 complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Last year I won two out of thirteen of all successful complaints nationally about maladministration of admission appeal panels for academies  settled by 30th September 2011, and half of all those in Kent! The statistics show it is far harder to win a complaint for an Academy Appeal Panel than with the Local Government Ombudsman (see below). 

The full figures are as follows:

A. Maladministration that the YPLA considers may have caused injustice.  Where this is the decision a fresh appeal is required to be heard by a different panel.

B. Maladministration that the YPLA does not consider to have caused injustice.  Where this is the decision no fresh appeal is required

C. No maladministration.




Total received

Decision Pending / Awaiting Further Info from parent or Clerk A* B* C* Parent Withdrew Complaint
National 107 16 7 3 78 3
Kent County Council Area 18 0 4 1 13 0
Medway Council Area 0 - - - - -

* Letters refer to decisions in previous paragraph.

Compared to Ombudsman decisions, there is a remarkably low proportion of successful complaints settled so far. Of course it may be that those where decisions are pending include a higher proportion of cases which may be settled in favour of the complainant.

By comparison, for 2010 entry, the Local Government Ombudsman heard 1403 school admission complaints nationally, fairly similar proportionately, given the number of schools involved. For Kent in 2010, there were 35 complaints to the Ombudsman about school admissions for county/community schools although the outcomes are not recorded. Kent foundation and voluntary aided schools produced 77 complaints of which 30 were the subject of local settlements (this means in general that the complaints were upheld with a fresh appeal or a recommendation to admit directly to the school), and in Medway, 6 out of 18 were upheld.

There thus appears to be a dramatic fall in the chances of success for complaints about academies, three possible reasons being as follows. Firstly, those still pending may produce a higher proportion of success, as they may be the subject of further investigation, but this would still leave the chances of success much lower. Secondly, the process of determining outcomes has significant differences. Normally in Ombudsman cases, there is discussion of the issues arising between the parties so that all have a chance to comment on the other's case. The complainant usually sees the appeal clerk's notes and the admission authority's comments on the case. he is then able to challenge any wrong information put forward. The Ombudsman issues a provisional view which either side can challenge and put forward further information. On the other hand, with the EFA, the academy gets to see the complaint, but the parent does not see their response - this is clearly unfair! There may be limited informal discussion, but the first real indication one has of the  outcome is the final decision. Thirdly, the Ombudsman website is packed with information and advice on complaints, backed up by a telephone support line. There is no such help available for complaints to the YPLA.  There is solely information on the address to send a complaint to. One of the massive frustrations reported by schools and parents alike, is the difficulty in contacting real people - telephone numbers all too often lead to message boards where no one answers!

I am happy to be corrected on any of the above views or information.

The Medway Tests for Entrance to Grammar School in September 2011 had problems in two Test Centres this year. Children from a number of primary schools who sat the test at Chatham Grammar School for Boys had their test papers collected in early and then they were given out again, causing disruption, and children at the other centre were the victims of disruptive behaviour by some of the candidates. My advice was to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman and he has recently concluded his investigation....

Published in News Archive
Friday, 10 December 2010 23:22

Kent and Medway Annual Reports

Kent 2009 Admissions

The full letter for Kent relating to 2009 admisssions and appeals can be found here.The relevant paragraphs are:

Of the 29 local settlements, 25 were education complaints. The largest group of local settlements, 21, concerned applications and appeals for admission to schools where the Council is the admissions authority. The faults included wrong or insufficient information being presented to appeal panels, inappropriate questioning by panellists and poor record keeping. In 14 cases the Council agreed to settle the complaint by the offer of a fresh appeal hearing. In five cases the Council offered a place at the preferred school. I found fault in four other admission cases but used my discretion not to pursue these as I was not satisfied that any injustice had been caused. During the year, four of my staff met officers from the Council’s corporate complaints section and its education department. They discussed identified problems in the way the Council arranges appeals (both for its own schools and in the appeal service that it provides for voluntary aided and foundation schools). They also discussed some delays in responding to our enquiries and resistance to settling complaints. The meeting was useful. As a result, two of my staff took part in three training sessions the Council organised for panellists, presenting officers and appeal clerks for all types of schools.

I settled four other education complaints. Two concerned a failure by the Council to provide education while a child was out of school. The Council paid a total of £1,450 compensation. The second concerned the Council’s failure to state that it would not pay for transport to a school named in a statement of special educational needs. The Council agreed to provide transport following my involvement. The last concerned a number of faults in the way the Council dealt with a child’s special educational needs. As a result he lost half a year’s education which had an impact on him and his mother, who was unable to work while she cared for him at home. The Council paid £5,000 compensation.

Kent 2008 Entry

I decided 58 complaints about applications and appeals for admission to Community and Voluntary Controlled schools, where the Council is the admissions authority. One complaint was outside my jurisdiction. In 23 complaints, there was no, or insufficient, evidence of maladministration and, in 20 others, I used my discretion not to pursue an investigation. I agreed to settle 14 complaints. In a number of appeals, the written cases presented on the Council’s behalf contained mistakes and, in others, the Panels took account of irrelevant factors in reaching their conclusions. In eight cases, a place at a preferred school was offered to a pupil, by various means including a successful appeal. The Council offered a rehearing, with a completely different Appeal Panel and a different Clerk, in respect of the appeals of six other pupils. Nevertheless, the Council was reluctant to accept our recommendations that some appeals should be reheard, and more resistant to our suggestion that, in a very exceptional case where the Council and the Appeal Panel had been at fault, the Council should exercise its discretion to admit the pupil without requiring a further appeal. The Council has agreed to review a range of procedures and published material relating to applications and appeals for school places.
The average time taken by the Council to reply to our written enquiries about complaints was 38.1 days. This represents a significant deterioration, compared with the time taken last year (29.4 days) to respond to our enquiries. Delayed responses were not confined to any particular departments. I hope that the Council will make every effort to achieve the target (28 days) which we set for responding to our first written enquiries.
The Council’s responses to our enquiries as well as being slow do not always provide full answers to the questions raised. This can lead to the need to make further enquiries. While some responses have been thin, others have contained an excess of detail. On occasion the Council is reluctant to offer to settle complaints.
Some of the Council’s responses on admission appeal cases have been incomplete, with pages missing from Clerks’ manuscript notes of Admissions Appeal Panels. Our concern about the quality of responses applies not only to complaints about appeals where the Council is the admissions authority for the school in question, but also where the Council provides an appellate and clerking service on behalf of the Governors of Voluntary Aided and Foundation schools who are their own admissions authorities

Medway 2009 Letter

For Medway, the full letter can be found here. The relevant sections read:

Two complaints concerned education. In one the Council failed to update a statement of special educational needs, to reflect a child’s move from a residential school to the 6th form of a mainstream school. The move subsequently broke down. The Council paid £1,000 compensation. I asked the Council to review its procedures to ensure that statements are updated. The Council told me that it was satisfied that its procedures are sufficiently robust. This is a matter I will review in the light of any similar complaints. In the second the Council agreed to offer a re-hearing of an education admission appeal, in the light of some concerns about the way an application to a grammar school had been dealt with. In the event the complainants were successful in obtaining a place at another school and so did not pursue the fresh appeal.

There were no School Admission Ombudsman complaints.

Medway 2008 Letter

I decided 22 complaints about educational issues. I found no maladministration on four school admissions complaints and I used my discretion not to pursue investigations into two others as well as two complaints about general educational issues.
I agreed to settle 13 education complaints. Ten of these related to failures in the arrangements for school admissions. The complaints were settled either by school places being offered to the children or by re-hearings for the parents. One of my Investigators subsequently visited the Council to discuss its school admissions arrangements and a number of changes have now been made which should help to avoid similar problems from occurring in future years.
The average time taken by the Council to reply to our written enquiries was 40.2 days, which is significantly higher than the time target we set and continues the upward trend of the past few years. It also compares unfavourably with the performance of other unitary authorities, only 9% of which have an average response time of 36 days or longer. As in previous years there were some very significant delays on a small number of complaints.
Of the 34 complaints on which we made enquiries, only seven of the responses were within the target time.
One of my Investigators visited the Council in August 2008 to discuss the Council’s procedures for complaint handling.The Council has subsequently confirmed that on-line reporting and case management control systems have been refined to give greater focus to response times and to identify delays at an earlier point within the process. It does not appear that this has yet resulted in any significant improvement.
The high level of local settlements (46.4% of those within my jurisdiction) suggests that the Council’s own procedures for dealing with complaints may not be as robust as they could be, and that it may be reluctant to accept fault or not be prepared to offer an appropriate remedy until pressed to do so.

Friday, 10 December 2010 00:00

Ombudsman Reports and Statistics

You will find an updated article on the Education Funding Agency outcomes here

Complaint statistics against Foundation and Voluntary Aided School Admissions for 2012 entry were not published by the Ombudsman's Office for 2012 entry, but are awaited for 2013 entry.  

Successful Ombudsman Complaints in Kent & Medway against Foundation and Voluntary Aided School Admissions for 2011 entry were as follows. Please note, most of these will have led to fresh hearings and not necessarily a place at the school: Barton Court Grammar, Canterbury 1; Borden Grammar, Sittingbourne 1; Frittenden CofE Primary, Cranbrook 1; Hampton Primary, Herne Bay 1; Hoo St Werburgh Primary 1; Howard, Rainham 1; Oakwood Park Grammar, Maidstone 1; Rochester Girls Grammar 2; St William of Perth RC Primary 1; Simon Langton Girls' Grammar, Canterbury 1; Sir Roger Manwood's, Sandwich 3; Skinners, Tonbridge 1; Stoke Community Primary, Rochester 1; Thamesview Gravesend 1; Thomas Aveling, Rochester 1.      

Successful Ombudsman Complaints in Kent & Medway against Foundation and Voluntary Aided School Admissions for 2009 entry were as follows: Archbishop's School, Canterbury 2; Bennett Memorial School, Tunbridge Wells 2; Borden CofE Primary, Sittingbourne 1; Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs 2; Fort Pitt Grammar, Chatham 1; Gravesend Grammar School 2; Gravesend Grammar School for Girls 2; Homewood School, Tenterden 2; Maidstone Boys Grammar 3; Maplesdon Noakes School, Maidstone 2; Mascalls School, Paddock Wood 1; Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Faversham 1; St Peter in Thanet CofE Junior 1; St George's CofE School Gravesend 2; St Simon Stock RC School, Maidstone 2; Simon Langton Boys Grammar 1; Sir Roger Manwoods School, Sandwich 1; The Skinners School 4; Tonbridge Grammar School 1; Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School 3; Ursuline RC School, Margate 3; Weald of Kent Grammar School for Girls, Tonbridge 14; Wilmington Grammar School for Boys 3; Wrotham School 8.

Successful Ombudsman Complaints in Kent against Foundation and Voluntary Aided School Admissions for 2008 entry were as follows. : Deal Parochial CofE Primary School 1, Barton Court Grammar School 1, Bennett Memorial Diocesan School 1, Cranbrook School 0 (+6 in 2007),  Dane Court Grammar School 3, Dartford Boys Grammar School 1, Dover Grammar  School for Boys 1, Folkestone School for Girls 1 (+ 1 in 2007),  Gravesend Grammar School for Girls 1,The Judd School 1, Rochester Grammar School 1, Robert Napier School 1,  St George's CofE School Gravesend 1; Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys 1,  Skinners School 2; Thomas Aveling School 1, Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for  Girls 5 (+ 1 in 2007), Westlands School 1, Wilmington Grammar School for Boys 4, The Grammar School for Girls Wilmington 2, Wrotham  School 2.

Complaints against Schools controlled by KCC or Medway Council are not listed individually but are as follows:

For Kent in 2010, 21 settlements concerned applications and appeals for admission to schools where the Council is the admissions authority. The faults included wrong or insufficient information being presented to appeal panels, inappropriate questioning by panellists and poor record keeping. In 14 cases the Council agreed to settle the complaint by the offer of a fresh appeal hearing. In five cases the Council offered a place at the preferred school. I found fault in four other admission cases but used my discretion not to pursue these as I was not satisfied that any injustice had been caused.

For Medway there were no Education Admission Complaints

  • The Ombudsman published two reports on complaints following Kent School Appeals in February 2009. Both can be found here. The first of these, following a complaint by me, was about an infant admission appeal to Deal Parochial Primary School. As a result, the child was awarded a place at the school. This case highlights a worrying feature of a number of church school admission policies (both primary and secondary) across Kent. The dioceses of both Canterbury and Rochester are required to be consulted on these, but the procedure is clearly faulty. The school adjudicator examined a number of these in the summer and as a result, there are some changes in the pipeline. The second Report is on Fulston Manor School. Interestingly, although there were considerable faults identified in the appeal process, the Report agrees that the decision not to uphold the appeal was the correct one! Fulston Manor School has taken steps to remove the faults in its procedures. There have been no subsequent problems with appeals at the school.
  • The Ombudsman archive pages referred to above, reveal that three of my complaints have produced published Reports (where the complaint may be of national interest), out of a total of 23 on school admissions in the past four years. Indeed as one Report was for seven of my clients, these nearly amounted to a majority of all complaints! A total of five of the  Reports relate to Kent schools (all Foundation or Voluntary Aided Schools).
  • For 2008 entry, I won complaints to the Ombudsman on behalf of seven families at Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, Rochester. Medway Council admitted major faults in the process, coupled with further faults by the Independent Appeal Panel and has now offered places at the school to all those boys who had passed the Medway Test, but were turned down on appeal.  This is the third time in six years I have secured places at this school through complaints to the ombudsman on behalf of groups of parents, representing a total of 27 families over this time, along with many others who were successful at appeal in the first place!
  • Because there was a local settlement, not all issues were considered by the Ombudsman, but he expressed considerable concern over the operation of the Medway oversubscription distance criteria for oversubscription. A number of parents were never given details of why their sons had been turned even after the Panel Chairman instructed the Council to provide these before individual appeals. The Council was criticised for not providing the correct paperwork for the appeal and for introducing new evidence (actually just assertions) at the appeal, without notice. The Council neither provided details of the school capacity, not any evidence there would be prejudice if additional pupils were admitted. The council presenting officer did not know that secondary school rolls were falling in Medway. The previous headteacher (now retired) stated at his Open Evening that in the past all parents whose sons had passed the Medway Test and persevered in their applications to the school had eventally been offered places.

For entry in September 2009, the school strongly resisted any additional admissions and just three appeals were successful. This time, although the Ombudsman recognised faults in the process he did not uphold any complaints.

  • Another of my successful ombudsman complaints was at The Thomas Aveling School in Medway for 2009 entry, the key issue once again being faulty distance plotting. I have won several appeals on these grounds in previous years.
  • The Ombudsman published a Report on a number of successful complaints at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Faversham, where I secured places for eight children (22 May 2007). Following resolution of the complaints, each family appealed a second time for a place at the school with my support and was successful. The Foundation school had used the KCC Appeals Service and the summary sentence of the Report reads 'Governors cannot take it for granted, without proper enquiry, that the appeals service which they commission will be fit for purpose'. This is a powerful indictment of the process, and the Ombudsman found sixteen different examples of maladministration in the operation of the appeals, including wholly inappropriate questioning, an inadequate clerking service, information provided to the Panel but not to parents, incorrect procedural guidance issued by KCC to parents, pressure put on parents to keep statements and hearings unneccesarily short, refusal to accept parental evidence, improper consideration of headteacher appeal evidence, etc, etc. The previous year another Report on one of my cases was published, this time at St John’s RC Comprehensive school in Gravesend. Copies of these reports are available from the Ombudsman's Office. The recent Kent Reports reports can be found here.
Friday, 10 December 2010 19:39

Ombudsman (2)

Letter in East Kent Gazette: “We were thrown a lifeline when someone gave us the details of Peter Read, an Independent Education adviser from Gravesend. I would like you readers to know just what a saviour he was to us”. (Successful ombudsman complaint).
Published in Quotes
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