William Eichler 23 August 2018

Council fined for ‘unfairly’ changing school admission arrangements

Nottinghamshire County Council has been criticised for ‘unfairly’ changing its school admission arrangements and forcing parents to send siblings to separate schools.

In 2016 the local authority stopped prioritising children with siblings who lived outside of a schools’ catchment area in the oversubscription criteria.

This decision, which has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, resulted in two families being forced to take their younger children to different primary schools.

The families applied for reception places at the same school for entry in September 2016 but their applications were unsuccessful due to the changes in the school admission arrangements. Their appeals were also rejected.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled that the new admissions arrangements for September 2017 were unfair. The council then decided to offer second appeals to families affected by the changes.

However, because the school was full, it was unable to offer the families concerned extra places.

‘The changes Nottinghamshire County Council made to its admissions arrangements have had a significant impact on daily life for these two families, which could last until the older siblings have moved on to senior school,’ said LGO Michael King.

‘In cases like this we would normally ask the council to offer a fresh appeal to the families. But because the school has now converted to an academy, neither the council nor we have any authority over its admissions arrangements.’

Nottinghamshire County Council has agreed to pay the two families £500 a year.

Commenting on the LGO’s findings, Cllr Philip Owen, chairman of the Children & Young People’s Committee, said: ‘It is unfortunately the nature of the school admissions process that there are always going to be some families and children left dissatisfied whichever policy an authority adopts.

‘By restoring priority in the oversubscription criteria for children outside a schools’ catchment area who have siblings already at a particular school, this could mean that children who live nearer and perhaps only just outside that school’s catchment may have to go a much longer distance to get to another school.

‘I am not convinced that the adjudication took their rights into account sufficiently.

‘However, Nottinghamshire County Council respects its duty to abide by the Ombudsman’s decision. There is certainly no desire by this authority to act unfairly or cause distress to any family.’

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