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Thursday, 15 September 2011 00:00

I win 2/3 of all Complaints upheld nationally about Academy Appeal Panels

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..........

The YPLA is able to make one of three decisions as a result of its investigations into complaints about Independent Appeal Panels for Academies:

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.

The full figures are as follows:

OUTCOMES OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT ADMISSION APPEAL PANEL ADMINISTRATION MADE TO YPLA BEFORE 31ST AUGUST 2011

 

Total received

Decision Pending / Awaiting Further Info from parent or Clerk A* B* C* Parent Withdrew Complaint
National 97 37 3 3 52 2
KentCounty Council Area 19 3 3 1 12 0
Medway Council Area 0 - - - - -

 * Letters refer to decisions in previous paragraph.

All three successful complaints referred to schools in the Kent County Council area, with 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, 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 YPLA, 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!

Last modified on Sunday, 09 November 2014 20:52

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