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Legal Advice Required re School Admissions

(16 Posts)
Ujjayi Tue 30-Apr-13 14:23:33

Wondering if anyone can advise regarding our legal position in a school admissions screw up. Basically, we live within the boundaries of one LEA (let's call it authority A) but our catchment school falls within another LEA (authority B). Story is this:

I completed an online application for DS2 at middle school last November to authority A, as per regulations, 2 months before closing date for applications. Received email from them stating they had received it and I would be notified by 16 April.

Authority A are then obliged to forward the application to Authority B who process it and award places. They inform Authority A of decision who then notify me.

Having not heard anything I chased it up today. Apparently due to a "System Error" at Authority A the application was never sent. The error has now been detected and I am one of 3 parents whose applications were finally sent to Authority B last week!

Authority B will only process the application as a Late Application - despite the error being on the part of Authority A.

Just wondering if anyone can advise where we stand legally if we should fail to be awarded a place at the school? Surely it isn't good enough for Authority A to just shrug their shoulders and say "sorry, it's now a late application" when it clearly wasn't.

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 14:27:52

It's definitely not good enough. If you're not awarded that place you may have ground to apply for judicial review of the decision. I'm sure that to do that you have to demonstrate the process/procedure wasn't not carried out properly and that this directly led to the detriment.

I'm a solicitor but haven't practiced for some time, and since it's 12 yrs since I did my one and only (successful!) judicial review, you need someone to give you firm advice on this.

Ujjayi Tue 30-Apr-13 14:36:57

Thanks PermaShattered. I am really upset by their incompetence. In fact, Authority A didn't contact me to advise me of the situation - I only found out because other parents at school had all received notification letters and we hadn't.

I have just emailed Authority B explaining the situation and asking for them to take into consideration the failings of Authority A before going ahead and processing our application as "late".

Would it be worth contacting a solicitor? I'm being a bit thick but is there a specialist area of law for this?

Ujjayi Tue 30-Apr-13 14:38:22

Oh and Authority A emailed me (after I requested it) to say that

"...xxxx application was not processed on-time was due to a system error with this authority".

is that proof enough?

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 14:40:20

It's public law. You'd need an expert solicitor with successful experience in judicial review applications. They are usually a straightforward and not too lengthy process. Keep records as much as you can of all correspondence/emails and telephone calls (taking names when you can).

Then if you don't get the place you want you can take legal advice. Feel free to ask me for specific recommendation of a solicitor.

Ujjayi Tue 30-Apr-13 14:45:45

Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated. Is there any point in contacting someone now? I think it is despicable that I had to chase this and Authority A clearly had no intention of informing me of the situation. The women I spoke with was distinctly cagey about exactly when they had finally sent the application through too.

lougle Tue 30-Apr-13 14:57:43

"2.3 Regardless of which schools parents express preferences for, the CAF is required to be returned to the local authority in the area that they live (the ‘home’ authority). The home authority must then pass information on applications to other local (‘maintaining’) authorities about applications to schools in their area. The maintaining authority must determine the application and inform the home local authority if a place is available. The offer to parents must be made by the home local authority." Schools Admissions Code 2012

I would think that the error lies entirely with Authority A. Authority B has made no error.

I'll have a google in a bit...

titchy Tue 30-Apr-13 14:59:35

I don't think there's any need for lawyers or judicial reviews!!!

It's fairly straightforward and I'm sure the MN admission gurus will be along soon, but an error being made is one of the clear cut circumstances where you should be awarded a place (assuming you'd have got one if the error hadn't occured). You may have to appeal, though technically you shouldn't, but an appeal panel should rectify the situation in any case.

titchy Tue 30-Apr-13 15:00:23

And yes your email is proof enough!

tiggytape Tue 30-Apr-13 15:04:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

titchy Tue 30-Apr-13 15:13:00

I think this is middle school isn't it - so not even class size prejudice!

Ujjayi Tue 30-Apr-13 15:13:28

Wow - I love MN grin

tiggytape - we would definitely have got a place. I called the school today to discuss and was advised that there was absolutely no barrier to our having a place other than this ridiculous cock-up.

The code you quote - does that cover transfer to middle school? DS is currently at lower school in Y4 and should be starting Y5 in September.

lougle Tue 30-Apr-13 15:20:41

Can you look at both the home LA and the Maintaining LA admisssions criteria/statements? For example, Haringay say:

"24.Where Haringey LA has not received an outcome for a school within another maintaining LA which is a higher preference than the school offered, Haringey, as Home LA, will case manage that application until an outcome can be sent in respect of each higher preference school named on Haringey’s School Admission Application Form."

lougle Tue 30-Apr-13 15:21:53

That'll teach me for leaving the window open when I go out grin

prh47bridge Tue 30-Apr-13 16:09:16

Yes the Admissions Code applies to all admissions including transfers to middle school. No need for solicitors or recourse to the law. This is a very straightforward case. In theory they should admit you without any need for an appeal. In practise they will probably insist on an appeal.

Your case is that your LA failed to comply with the Admissions Code by failing to pass on your application contrary to paragraph 2.3 of the Code and that your child would have gained a place but for that omission. The fact that the mistake was by your LA rather than the school's LA is irrelevant. The panel is required to consider whether the admission arrangements were correctly applied. They do not have to consider who got it wrong.

Assuming you would have got a place (do get confirmation of that in writing), a correctly trained appeal panel should award your child a place unless there were a lot of children affected and the school could not cope with all of them. In the unlikely event that the appeal panel gets it wrong you can refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman who will definitely get it right.

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 22:01:21

Just logged back in and THAT TOLD ME smile You can tell i have no education admission procedure knowledge!

I didn't think about the appeals process dope me. OP - good luck and all that, and keep us posted!

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