Primary school offer withdrawn

(21 Posts)
Steve236 Tue 30-Apr-13 11:08:32

Hi, I know there are a few posts on here addressing this but I was after some specific advice. We received the email offer of a place for our daughter at our first choice primary school which we accepted a few days later. Then another 9 days after that (12 days after the original offer), we had a phone call yesterday saying there had been an error so the offer was being withdrawn. As there are 3 schools closer to use, presumably the error was that we were originally deemed to be in the catchment area but have now been ruled out based on distance.
I've seen the messages regarding a 3 day period being too long a delay in withdrawing an offer in previous cases and that the regulations have recently changed to allow authorities to withdraw offers if a mistake has been made. What grounds do we have to contest this and have the offer reinstated do you think?
Thanks

VivaLeBeaver Tue 30-Apr-13 11:09:58

I thought they weren't allowed to withdraw offers at all. I would fight this all the way and I think you have a good chance of winning. Not sure who you go to....education authority probably.

admission Tue 30-Apr-13 11:26:19

You cannot as such contest the fact that the latest admission code says that admission authorities can withdraw places given in error. Unfortunately the new code is short on detail on what are the circumstances, but there are a number of well documented legal cases around when school places can be withdrawn due to error. Each case is always judged on its own merit but the perceived wisdom from these cases is that if the place is withdrawn within 24 hours that is considered acceptable but once it gets past three days the parents and child are usually deemed to have now got used to being awarded the place and therefore it is considered too long a period. You should also have had a letter confirming the withdrawal of the place. Contacting you solely by telephone is just not acceptable.
The problem is that with a new code in 2012, admission authorities are likely to want a new legal judgement to confirm the previous cases still are appropriate as case law.
I would write back to the admission authority saying that you accept that they have the right to withdraw places but that there are legal precedents over the time period that this can happen over. 9 days is substantially more than that considered appropriate and therefore you require them to re-instate the place as it was their mistake, within a specified time period. You also need to make sure that they understand that you will be going to appeal over this.
As a separate issue you should not assume that you are going to win over this and that you need to get another acceptable school place allocated as soon as possible as the fall back position

VivaLeBeaver Tue 30-Apr-13 11:36:30

Oh dear, I didn't realise there was a new code thingy. Hope it works out.

christinarossetti Tue 30-Apr-13 14:53:15

In this case the LA's error may well have prevented the OP's child being offered a place in any of their preferred schools, wouldn't it, if a place was allocated at the first so she was no longer included in admission arrangements for other schools?

Does the LA have any responsibility to honour its own admissions code sort of in retrospect when it has made a very late in the day mistake?

prh47bridge Tue 30-Apr-13 16:15:02

The LA would be on a very sticky wicket if they offered someone in a worse position than they would have been if they had not made an error. If they go down that route I would expect an appeal panel to admit the child concerned to the school they would have got if no mistake had been made, provided the parent appeals for that school. But I doubt that will be relevant in this case. LAs may want a new legal precedent (or at least a new ruling from the LGO) but I would be surprised if it was any different from the previous ruling.

SE13Mummy Tue 30-Apr-13 20:16:19

After reading this article on my journey home this evening I wonder if the OP is one of the Lewisham families affected by the LA's inability to measure how long a line is...

My own experience* with the LA, particularly its unique approach to primary school admissions, leads me to declare that I'm not a bit surprised that such an error has been madesad. I'm also not overly optimistic that any reviewing of the systems will prevent the same happening again.

I do hope that the OP, and any others who are on the receiving end of admin errors get things resolved quickly and sensibly.

*summary:
May 2009, DD1 didn't get a place at 1st choice primary (650-800m away depending on which ruler is used) due to fraudulent behaviour of a parent applying for school in the next street
Sept 2009, DD1 starts at very local school
Dec 2009, DD1 offered place at 1st choice due to fraudulent application being sussed out and reshuffle of children ensues
Jan 2010, LA over-offer twice the vacancy at DD1's first choice and attempt to withdraw her place

bugslife Tue 30-Apr-13 22:11:49

Are you in a London Borough? I would fight this. What if other schools locally are full, it would be like Dominoes!

tiggytape Tue 30-Apr-13 22:30:28

Exactly bugslife - if Lewisham are withdrawing offers from 'scores' of families and giving everyone the offer they should have got had the mistake not occurred, this will mean some parents at potentially every school in the local area could lose places and be reallocated.

The ones removed from Haberdashers' and sent elsewhere will inflate the class sizes in their newly allocated schools so presumably the ones who 'should' have been lowest in those classes will also be removed and sent to the schools they should have got had the initial measurement for Haberdashers' not been wrong. It could send ripples across dozens of schools.

And if they decide to minimise impact by only removing places at Haberdashers' and tolerating expanded class sizes elsewhere, it raises the question why a mistake should cost some people their place but not all. And why Haberdashers' won't go over numbers to rectify an error but other schools are expected to cope.

If I were a parent affected, I would appeal this and hope all those whove had places removed do so too. It is far, far too late for Lewisham to try to rectify this now by forcibly taking back places already allocated.

edam Tue 30-Apr-13 22:33:42

I read about this in the paper tonight. Sounds extremely stressful. I do hope the argument about nine days being too long holds water for you - have you contacted your local councillor?

PanelChair Wed 01-May-13 00:52:37

I agree with admission. If 9 days was too long under the old code, I would expect it to be too long under the new code too.

PanelChair Wed 01-May-13 00:58:19

Tiggy - where LEAs award places to correct their own error, those pupils become "excepted" pupils, ie the class size limit of 30 does not apply. So potentially, lots of Lewisham classes could go over the ICS limit and no further places would have to be withdrawn, but of course the realty if that may be that some classes are bigger than the school can reasonably be expected to manage. What a mess.

(and all this presupposes that the new code has the same provisions as the old code - it's too late now for me to go and check!)

prh47bridge Wed 01-May-13 11:02:52

The new code still says the same. The problem here is that Lewisham appear to have withdrawn a load of offers on the grounds they were made in error and may already be offering those places to the families that should have got them in the first place. So now they are in a situation where they may have issued far more offers than the school can possibly manage. It is, as you say, a mess. I feel for the appeal panel that is going to have to try and sort this lot out.

tiggytape Wed 01-May-13 11:58:59

prh - It seems very rash of Lewisham to decide to rectify the problem by issuing more offers - not just to those who missed out at Haberdashers but to the ones who were wrongly allocated Haberdashers, who've had that offer withdrawn and have now been offered instead 'what they would have got' had it not been for any error.
In effect a lot of people are going to have received 2 offers each and have very strong views on which ones they think are valid.

This potentially means much larger class sizes in other schools but I expect they hope the affect will be diluted and not result in lots of children losing Haberdashers and all being sent to the same alternative school instead.

Maybe they just bank on most people not knowing and not appealing it despite feeling very aggrieved?

admission Wed 01-May-13 12:22:06

The actual admission number for the school in the primary phase appears to be 60. It is obviously vastly over subscribed.
Lewisham appear to me to have taken the wrong way on how to handle this. Whilst we do not know how many have been incorrectly given places at the school what Lewisham have done is started a cascade of problems at different schools instead of addressing the problem at Haberdashers. In my opinion what they should have done is establish how many pupils had been disadvantaged by not getting an offer of a place that they should have got if the admission had been carried out correctly.
The number in question is somewhere between 1 and 60. What would have been a better outcome would be to say sorry to those that have been disadvantaged and offer a place at the school. They would be admitted as excepted pupils and it may well be that an extra classroom and teacher may be required, which the council will have to pay for. That however has got to be a better outcome than this cascade of problems for other schools and the LA. The negative PR for Lewisham on its own would suggest their course of action is not a good way to go, but the legal bills fighting irate parents who are now losing places at the school may well be far more than the cost of a mobile and an extra teacher.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Wed 01-May-13 13:12:56

Couldn't agree more, admission!

PermaShattered Wed 01-May-13 18:50:40

An interesting thread and very relevant to mine own situation - OP please forgive me for posting here - admission - any insight on the following would be useful.

My DD had an offer at our 1st choice secondary school - grammar school - last Friday. See my thread on this here:
http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/education/1744287-Late-Grammar-School-offer-over-the-moon-but-stressed-flummoxed

I took a phone call at 4.30 today from the director of admissions at my LEA (NOT admissions at the LEA who made the error) saying a massive error had been made.

My husband verbally accepted the offer on Friday, paper offer came Sat. It's wed evening. My DD has spent the last 5 days on cloud 9, trying on her sister's uniform (she's at that grammar school), talking about the school, her sister telling her what she'll be doing, etc etc.

I've made it crystal clear they can't now just take it off her. Can they? ANYthing to help me understand the way forward....

admission Wed 01-May-13 21:16:53

As admissions are dealt with by the "home" LA it is actually their responsibility to deal with you but in practice they are piggy in the middle of this shambles.
I have absolutely no idea how such a mistake can happen. If there is a minimum score to achieve before they could be considered for a place, I don't understand how you could even have been on the list of pupils who could have been offered place but that is not relevant now and the point here is what can ow happen.
You were offered the place and they have had more than their three days, though if they talk about working days then it is probably marginal in all honesty. There is no hard and fast three day rule it is what has come from various legal cases some of which ended up with the place being given back and some where the withdrawal of the place was upheld. It is all around what the expectation of the parents and child are and your and more importantly your daughter's expectation is that they are going to that school. On average the legal decisions seem to suggest that the courts think that about three days is long enough for that expectation to become clear in the minds of parent and pupil.
The honest answer is that they can take the place away based on the 2012 admission code but that does not take into consideration the previous legal cases, it is just an overall statement which can be challenged at an appeal hearing and at court. As such the LA will always take that action and see what happens. You have done the right thing and told them what you think about it and what they need to do. I think you need to put that in writing to them and give them a deadline for confirming the place has been reinstated. You can then only wait and see what happens but I think in the interim you need to be thinking in terms of what your other options are, your daughter needs a school place for September and if the LA dig their heels in then it will be a long hard fight to get the place back and even then there is no guarantee of success.

LondonMother Wed 01-May-13 21:27:19

What a dreadful situation to be in - to be offered a place at a good school and then to be told that it was all a mistake. Not good in any circumstances but what must make it particularly galling for the Aske's parents is that if you get a place in Reception your child is guaranteed a place at Aske's for the senior school too, if that's what you want. Places there are like gold dust so to lost that as well as the primary place is really, really grim.

I'm sorry for your situation too, Perma. Hope it gets resolved to your satisfaction and sooner rather than later.

PermaShattered Wed 01-May-13 21:59:07

Thanks both - because I don't want to hijack the OP's thread I'm going to send a PM to admission - hope you don't mind!

prh47bridge Wed 01-May-13 22:58:40

The old code said that an offer could be withdrawn if it was made in error by the LA, not the admission authority. That seemed to rule out withdrawal of places where the LA was the admission authority and made the mistake but it didn't stop LAs from trying.

The new code allows places to be withdrawn when they have been offered in error regardless of who made the mistake. Neither the old or the new code said anything about timescales. That is based on previous cases. These seem to have established that an offer made in error can be withdrawn the day it is made but not after 3 or more days.

In both these cases the offer was withdrawn after more than 3 days - nearly 2 weeks in the OP's case, only just over in PermaShattered's case. In the latter case I think the fact that PermaShattered specifically asked if there had been a mistake and was assured not helps.

Unfortunately we've seen this kind of thing happen every year. It isn't necessarily LAs wanting new case law following the change to the Admissions Code. Some just ignored the deadline anyway, presumably in the hope that some parents would be taken in and accept the withdrawal of their child's offer. My personal take on this is that I don't see anything in the new Admissions Code that gives me any reason to believe the deadline for withdrawing an offer made in error has changed. I would hope that the courts, LGO and EFA (for academies) continue to uphold the rule that 3 days is too long.

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