An over-enrolled Surrey school agreed to hear a mother’s plea for a place at the school after a guard dog discovered it had not properly considered it. The mother applied for a seventh-grade place for her son to start in 2021 at St Andrew’s RC School in Leatherhead, which was rated excellent by schools watchdog Ofsted 10 years ago and has not been inspected since.
She wanted her son, who did not live within her catchment area but attended one of her feeding schools, to continue his Catholic education and remain with his friends after Covid-19 restrictions. But he turned down a place. St Michael’s was surpassed by 30 entries and the boy’s entry did not fit into the higher entry categories.
The mother appealed the school principals’ decision, but the panel rejected the appeal and she complained that the school did not follow proper procedures. St Michael’s Catholic School was approached for comment.
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The Local Government and Social Welfare Ombudsman’s investigation found that the official did not accurately record the proceedings, voting, and reasons for the panel’s decision at the time, and instead drafted notes provided to the Ombudsman sometime after the event.
Michael King, Local Government and Welfare Ombudsman, said: “The school’s failure to keep an accurate record of proceedings caused this mother the anguish of not knowing whether her child could have been offered a place if the appeal had been properly considered. We cannot say what the outcome might have been if the panel had properly considered the mother’s plea, we can say that her failures caused her some level of distress.
“I am pleased that the school has now offered the family a new hearing with a new panel and hope that proper consideration of their appeal will give the family some level of certainty about their child’s future education.” The notes did not show that the panel properly considered whether the admissions arrangements were in accordance with the law and whether they were correctly and impartially applied to the child’s case.
The Ombudsman has recommended that St Michael’s review its arrangements for the conduct of appeals and ensure that panelists and staff are adequately trained. He said the school had agreed to apologize to the family and offer the new appeal.
The school could admit 210 students in the seventh grade, but told the Ombudsman that last year it had used all “possible resources and goodwill” to provide a place for 240 students, which it said was “because the local authority needed and , . it would also allow more children to have a Catholic education.” The independent appeals panel heard 40 appeals against the school’s decision over six days, 16 of which were successful.