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The Education Funding Agency (EFA) - any experience?

(84 Posts)
PermaShattered Tue 02-Jul-13 13:40:21

Yesterday was a good time for MNHQ to pull a couple of certain threads ;)

Today I have submitted a detailed application form to the EFA - the academy equivalent to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) - to look into the circumstances of the Admissions Appeal for my daughter which was both conducted and decided in breach of the existing legal framework.

I have a simple question: does anyone have any experience yet of the EFA which is a new body?

For the avoidance of doubt:

1. This is a genuine request for help/advice/useful information - nothing else;
2. The phrase '3 day rule' anything associated with it is banned. Look, I know I can't 'ban' it really but please, this thread is not about the legal issues.

Thanks in advance for respecting that.

PermaShattered Wed 17-Jul-13 08:25:27

I can't understand any issue at all with lougle sharing in the way she did. one side - true, but facts are facts and it's anonymous anyway. She has no duty of care or confidentiality. I suspect many mumsnetters have talked about with other people to a certain extent...

As a general point, this thread isn't an argument about the law/facts, and if it degenerates yet again, then it's goodbye from me! My overarching concern now is to ensure we get a fair hearing, due process is followed and the legal framework is followed.

That is all.

Fairdene Wed 17-Jul-13 17:37:57

Admissions isn't my area, though of course I understand the general legal framework. If the EFA does order a fresh appeal, is the school bound to honour that prh47? Does its being an academy make any difference? And how long after the EFA decision will it take for a fresh appeal panel to be convened and the appeal be heard? I'm wondering in relation to the start of the new school year. Does the LGO put a time limit on the thing to stop schools dragging their heels?

FormaLurka Wed 17-Jul-13 19:08:08

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

LaVolcan Wed 17-Jul-13 19:30:51

What an unpleasant and unecessary post FormaLurka, and I have reported it.

PermaShattered Wed 17-Jul-13 20:17:31

Fairdeene, good questions but I have no idea about time scales. I'm absolutely certain the school would have to appoint a new appeal panel and I'd suspect it would say a new hearing must take place within a certain timescale. No idea about the LGO but prh/lougle or someone else might know.

lougle Wed 17-Jul-13 20:37:42

The admitting authority, in this case the Academy, is given a recommendation by the EFA/LGO. They can't be physically forced to follow the recommendation.

The LGO site says: "Can the Ombudsmen force a council to follow their recommendations?

No. The Ombudsmen have no legal power to make the council act on their decisions. But in nearly all cases councils do follow their recommendations.

What if a council doesn’t comply with an Ombudsman’s recommendations?

If a council does not agree to a settlement we have proposed, the Ombudsman may issue a formal report about the complaint, naming the council involved. The report must be made available to the public and advertised in the local press covering the council’s area.

If the council does not agree to carry out the recommendations in the report, the Ombudsman can issue a further report. After this, if the council still does not take satisfactory action it must publish a statement in a local newspaper explaining why it has refused to follow the Ombudsman’s recommendations. But it is very rare for a council to refuse to carry out the Ombudsman’s recommendations."

prh47bridge Wed 17-Jul-13 23:48:15

As far as I am aware it is unheard of for an LA to refuse to carry out the LGO's recommendations in an admissions case. VA schools however have sometimes refused to comply.

I'm going to disagree with lougle about the EFA, though. Unlike the LGO, the EFA can require the academy to establish a fresh appeal panel to hear the case. So yes, being an academy makes a difference in that they have to conduct a fresh appeal if the EFA says so. If it refuses to do so the EFA will consider the academy to be in breach of its funding agreement and take action accordingly. That could ultimately result in the school having its funding withdrawn.

As for timescales, the normal timescales laid down in the Appeals Code apply. That means the academy has to hold the fresh appeal within 30 school days of the decision. That doesn't prevent the fresh appeal taking place during the summer holidays but realistically, given where PermaShattered is in the process, it is unlikely any fresh appeal will be heard until after the start of the autumn term.

lougle Thu 18-Jul-13 07:01:33

Ahh, I didn't realise that about the EFA. You're right, of course, wrt the VA/LA distinction, too.

PermaShattered Thu 19-Sep-13 12:08:33

Hi all, a few Mumsnetters have been thinking about us and asked how it's going with the EFA, and how my DD is doing at her new school - thanks so much for thinking of us smile

There's not much to report yet really, except to say the EFA is formally investigating but taking its time. Interestingly, the EFA split our complaint about the maladministration surrounding the appeal into (I think) 9 separate heads - ie 9 separate alleged breaches of the admissions code. Says it all really.

When i have more news i'll update.

In the meantime, my daughter has settled in really well at the '3rd choice school' and is generally happy. Given what she's gone through we are so relieved.

Fairdene Fri 20-Sep-13 15:53:52

Very good to hear your DD likes her new school PermaShattered but isn't the EFA into overtime now? If you lodged the complaint on 2nd July, shouldn't there have been a resolution by 2nd Sept? Perhaps I've got that wrong but I thought they had up to two months but no more. If you want the option of moving your DD then the sooner the better I'd have thought. I'd be rattling their cage myself!

prh47bridge Fri 20-Sep-13 18:05:39

There are various deadlines involved.

After receiving a complaint the EFA has 10 working days to respond with a summary of the complaint and, if necessary, request further information from the complainant. Once they have contacted the complainant the clock stops and doesn't start again until the complainant has agreed the summary and provided any information requested.

Once the clock has started again the EFA has 20 working days to get information from the clerk to the appeal and, if necessary, the academy. If there are delays at this stage they are supposed to inform the complainant and say what actions they are taking to deal with the delay.

When they have all the information they need the EFA has 10 working days to make its decision.

Having said all that, they do appear to be over time with this case and haven't stuck to their own procedures unless they have told the OP there will be a delay.

PermaShattered Fri 20-Sep-13 18:09:38

mmmm, prh - FAR more than 20 days have passed since I was told the clerk was notified/info requested. And I've heard nothing from the EFA about delays/action proposed. Nor have I had a response from the EFA with a request for an update. So no, they haven't stuck to their own procedures!

pusspusslet Thu 26-Sep-13 19:40:55

Many thanks for the update: great news that DD is enjoying her new school, and also that EFA are investigating.

It's rather disturbing, though, that the EFA appear to have let the deadlines slip hmm

PermaShattered Wed 09-Oct-13 16:59:26

AT LAST I've heard from the EFA. And it seems what the Appeal Clerk says trumps what the law says confused . Ie the EFA has rejected every single complaint. For those of you with expertise in/practical experience on appeal panels - I suspect you might be as astounded as me.

The EFA did not even uphold my complaint that the letter notifying us of the decision was nonsensical: ie no errors had been made. But then acknowledging an error. Notably, the EFA has made no mention of the issue of the time period between offer and withdrawal of the offer.

So if your child gets an offer of a school place at their first choice school, and it gets withdrawn a week later - it's tough basically! Sod the law.

FormaLurka Sun 13-Oct-13 14:43:42

Various people back in April was telling you that you had no grounds for appeal. Since then you have appealed the appeal and failed at each stage. Yet you still refuse to accept it. Time to move on.

LaVolcan Sun 13-Oct-13 16:06:04

What an ungracious post FormaLurka. OP has 'moved on' and her DD has settled into her new school.

So not only does this appear to contradict previous judgements made in respect of LA schools, but failing to meet laid down timescales also appears to be irrelevant.

PermaShattered Wed 16-Oct-13 21:12:37

*LaVolcan" I expected comments like forma's - I'm amazed it's the only one - so far! I've been advised I have good grounds for a judicial review as both decisions are so off the mark as far as existing law and codes are concerned. Whether or not I will, i'm undecided: if I decide against it I will always feel that i'm letting others down because I don't want to see any other child go through what mine has.

LaVolcan Wed 16-Oct-13 23:11:51

It does seem as though the rule book has been ripped up, and since increasing numbers of schools are no longer under LA control, that is very worrying. Is it just a question of whether you have the time plus the emotional energy to pursue it? What is the time limit for taking further action?

PermaShattered Thu 17-Oct-13 13:15:47

It's not so much the emotional energy as it won't be for our/my DD's sake; it's the lawyer in me wanting to see a properly reasoned decision. The law and codes seem to have been discarded and that cannot be right. Time limit? V short: I think it's a matter of weeks in which to launch a JR.

Fairdene Thu 17-Oct-13 13:55:13

Did the EFA not give reasons for their decisions on the various heads of complaint? Surely it has to?

I'd definitely go for JR. To clear up what the reason is for the clear reluctance on the part of each of the two appellate bodies to allow the appeal.

prh47bridge Thu 17-Oct-13 14:51:02

I hope PermaShattered doesn't mind me answering this question. I have seen the EFA decision letter.

The EFA do give reasons. The quick summary is that they appear to be taking a very narrow view of their brief. The LGO will intervene in a case if the appeal panel's decision is unreasonable (e.g. clearly contrary to the evidence or previous legal decisions). The EFA appears to be unconcerned as to whether or not the decision is reasonable as long as the panel has followed the correct process.

One part really annoys me. The EFA acknowledges that a mistake was made by one of the LAs but appears to accept the appeal panel's view that it is not their role to do anything about that (which seems to me to be contrary to the Appeals Code and is definitely contrary to previous LGO decisions). The EFA suggest that the OP seeks redress from the LGO regarding that mistake. Even if the LGO would take the case (which I doubt), what do the EFA imagine they can do? The LGO certainly can't get the school to admit the OP's child. This seems to open up the possibility that, unless you were willing to take it to the courts, you would have no redress if, for example, your LA failed to pass on your application to an academy or free school resulting in your child missing out on a place that should have been theirs.

In another part the EFA respond to the OP's complaint that the panel did not test the school's case by questioning their representative by saying that the clerk has assured them that the panel questioned the school prior to the hearing. Really? And the EFA think that is acceptable? If the panel had a private meeting to ask their questions that is a clear breach of the Appeals Code. If they asked their questions in the first appeal hearing relating to this school and didn't repeat them in subsequent hearings that is, to say the least, poor practise as later appeals would not have heard answers which may have been helpful to them.

Near the head of this thread Lougle posted some figures which suggested that the success rate for parents was similar for the EFA and LGO. Looking closer at these figures I believe parents are significantly less likely to succeed if they have to use the EFA. The EFA upholds or partially upholds complaints in 28% of cases with half of these requiring a fresh appeal. Since a fresh appeal is the only remedy offered by the EFA that means only 14% of cases resulted in a remedy for parents. The figure for the LGO is 28%.

I intend to make these points (and more) in a letter to Michael Gove.

LaVolcan Thu 17-Oct-13 15:00:17

Do you think you will get any joy from Michael Gove?

It sounds as though the judicial review is the best route to follow. If that then upheld the EFA parents would then know where they stood, even if that is basically an unwelcome 'tough luck'.

prh47bridge Thu 17-Oct-13 16:33:16

I don't know if I will get any joy from Gove. My view is that if he is to achieve what he seems to want he needs a robust appeals system for academies. As things stand the net effect could be that more parents go to judicial review successfully for matters that could have been sorted out by the EFA. Each time that happens the school concerned will lose out financially.

PermaShattered Fri 18-Oct-13 12:36:42

Perhaps I should also write to Gove. Perhaps I should go to the national press! And embarrass this education secretary who I saw described just this morning as 'mentally challenged'

Xoanon Fri 18-Oct-13 12:48:14

Going to the national press is never a good idea. Write to Gove, write to your MP, take it to JR, but never involve the press. UNLESS you take the issues prh47 raises to eg The Guardian. Without actually mentioning your own situation - the removal of effective redress against LEA failures in the handling of the application process for academies is clearly potentially a wide ranging issue that will increasingly affect parents all over the country as the number of academies increases. They may be interested in following it up. But I doubt the original story about the offer of a grammar school place will get sympathetic traction from all quarters and it might bring very unwelcome attention to your DD which surely is the last thing you want.

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