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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, ...........

 

the issues surrounding this year's complaints have become much more serious following the Ombudsman's provisional recommendation that there should be fresh appeals. The Skinners School Governing Body has refused to implement the recommendation, the first time I have direct knowledge of this happening. This does expose a weakness in the Ombudsman procedure, where she lacks the power to force a recommendation through. Instead, in the very rare cases it has happened previously, s/he has had to fall back on the device of publishing a Report so that the refusal of the Governing Body to follow the recommendation, and the extent of their maladministration becomes public. In the case of the Skinners School, the procedure is now at the stage of preparing a draft report, which will be circulated to all parties for consideration and comment but, having direct knowledge of some of the evidence submitted, I would be surprised if it does not come through to a published Report in conclusion.  

To put this into context, there are only about ten Reports published nationally,each year, with seven in Kent over the past six years. However, none covered a situation as serious as this. 

One wonders what the Skinners Company of London, a major London Livery Company, thinks of this defiance of laid down procedures, in what will inevitably become a major controversy and embarrassment in one of the schools for which it is responsible, created by a Governing Body on which  it has strong representation.   

What they and the Governing Body may have lost sight of is that the families, most importantly the boys concerned, have seen possible places at the school lost through maladministration by those responsible for the school, who are now refusing to face up to the consequences of their actions. If alternatively, the Governing Body had accepted the Ombudsman's recommendations, there could have been fresh appeals in the summer and, with the school demonstrating that it has no further room (if that is the case),  most fresh appeals would have been lost and there would have been closure. Instead the boys involve will consider they have been treated unfairly, and will continue to hope for months to come that they can win a place if the school can be made to follow the rules. Of course, if the school were to agree to fresh appeals even now, much of this trauma would be removed.  

On a related note, as schools become Academies, the Ombudsman will cease to be involved, I think sadly, as all that expertise over so many years will be lost. Instead complaints go to the Young People's Learning Agency which has powers to force academies to hold fresh appeals, without the need for such processes as Reports. This means that the worst cases of maladministration will no longer be exposed to public scrutiny as in this case. Further, the statistics show that there are far fewer successful complaints (certainly for 2011, the first year for which statistics are available), as you can see here

Last modified on Monday, 25 February 2013 18:55

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