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DD didn't get in because they sent letters to wrong address??!

(151 Posts)
LibertineLover Fri 19-Apr-13 12:26:41

OK so this is a good friend of mines daughter. We live in a tiny village with one playgroup/pre-school and a primary that goes up to age 11.

My friend has moved 4 times in as many years, and has been here for a year now. She was asking and asking about when the letters for primary would come and I said I couldn't remember,so to ask at playgroup, when she did, they said she should have had the letter last year!!

Turns out they had been sending them to her address 4 moves ago?! so 2 x children that live miles out of catchment area have been given last remaining places. She can't drive, we are reeeeeaaaally rural, and the bloke from council said the schools all around this area were full, so her Dd would have to go in a taxi on her own every day, with no one she knows?!

School says they can only take 14, and they have that many.
does anyone have any ideas? The little girl will be devastated to not go to that school with all her friends from the village.

QuintessentialOHara Sun 21-Apr-13 00:01:39

Can she not put in a late application and go on the waiting list?

prh47bridge Sat 20-Apr-13 23:52:51

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate - You are absolutely correct regarding distress.

prh47bridge Sat 20-Apr-13 23:52:03

As the ICO's guidance correctly points out, you can normally only claim for distress if you have also suffered damage. You can only claim for distress alone in limited circumstances. This is not one of them. A claim for damage would fail so a claim for distress would fail with it.

The reasoning of the court would be as follows:

- It is the responsibility of the parents to apply for a school place at the appropriate time
- The LA is not required to send letters to parents reminding them to apply
- A parent might not receive a letter for all sorts of reasons - it might be lost in the post, the LA may not be aware of their child, the parent may throw it out thinking it is junk mail and so on
- Many parents in this LA and elsewhere will have applied late despite receiving a letter. There is therefore no proof that this parent would have applied on time even if a letter had been sent to the correct address
- Many parents in this LA and elsewhere will have applied on time despite not receiving a letter. There is therefore no reason why this parent could not have applied on time
- It is therefore far too much of a stretch to blame the LA for this parent's failure to apply on time

So even if there is a breach of the DPA (which is by no means certain) there is absolutely no way any compensation would be awarded.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Sat 20-Apr-13 23:00:27

I thought distress was only an add on to compensation for financial loss unless it was one of the 'special purposes' processing situations - like journalism? We don't generally go in for compensation for distress only in this country - employment legislation takes the same route.

Or am I out of date? It has been a while...

BoffinMum Sat 20-Apr-13 22:42:38

Did you read the bit about distress?

prh47bridge Sat 20-Apr-13 22:39:39

BoffinMum - I am well aware of the Data Protection Act. It forms a significant part of my job and I occasionally advise people on here how it applies to various situations.

Compensation is intended to make good any loss. In this case there is no loss as it is legally the parents' responsibility to ensure their child receives an education. There is therefore no damage to the mother or her child through the LA's failure to send the mother a letter inviting her to apply for a school place as it was her responsibility to apply regardless of whether or not the LA wrote to her. I can guarantee you that no court in the land would award a single penny in compensation simply because the LA has sent a letter to the wrong address.

ShadowStorm Sat 20-Apr-13 22:18:23

Poor OP's friend and friend's DD. It sounds like a horrible situation for them.

We don't get letters here either - DS not old enough for school applications yet, but there was a huge poster in the window of the local post office for months telling parents that they have to go on-line to apply or contact the council to ask for an application form, because otherwise the council won't send them one.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Sat 20-Apr-13 21:48:47

And I guess it depends too whether the letters are 'this is how you apply to school' or 'as you fall into the group for whom we have records on our database, here is a friendly info pack'. If the letter is presented as just one of many ways of conveying information, I think it would be harder to argue you lost out because of the error.

Also not sure about the financial loss to award damages, if the authority are paying for the taxi?

BoffinMum Sat 20-Apr-13 21:38:38

Repeat - if it had several versions of her address and used an old one without checking, because it was being inefficient, whereas it used the correct addresses for all the other parents on its database, explain to me in what way she is not disadvantaged and therefore does not have a claim for distress? This would be a case under the DPA and nothing to do with Education law, by the way (I think you are conflating the two).

From ICO website:


As an individual you may go to court to claim compensation for damage or distress caused by any organisation if they have breached the Data Protection Act.

When can I claim compensation under the Data Protection Act?
You have a right to claim compensation from an organisation if you have suffered damage because they have breached part of the Act.

You can normally only claim for any distress you have suffered if you have also suffered damage. However, if the organisation broke the law when they used your information for journalism, artistic or literary purposes, you can claim for distress alone.

How do I make a claim for compensation?
You do not have to make a claim to a court if an organisation agrees to pay you compensation. If you cannot reach an agreement with them, you can apply to a court for compensation alone or you can combine your claim with an action to put right any breach of the Act.

By law, the Information Commissioner cannot award compensation, even when he has said that in his view the organisation did breach the Act. You would still have to make a claim to a court.

How do I go about taking a case to court?
For guidance on what you need to do, please read Taking a case to court.

Will it help me in court to have asked the Information Commissioner whether the Act has been breached?
It may do. You can ask the ICO to assess if the organisation breached the Act and we will tell you whether, in our view, it was likely or unlikely that the organisation broke the law. You can give a copy of the ICO’s letter to the court together with the evidence you have to prove your claim. However, a court will take their own view of the law and the judge may not agree with the ICO’s view.

You may want to ask our helpline first to see if it is worth asking the ICO to assess your complaint. Whether you complain to the ICO or take a case to court, you will need evidence to back up what you say.

How much will the court award me if my claim is successful?
There are no guidelines about levels of compensation for a claim under the Act. It will be up to the judge hearing the case and they would take into account all the circumstances, including how serious they thought the breach was, the impact it had on you, particularly when assessing the distress you suffered. Even when you can show the court the exact sum of money you have lost as a result of the breach of the Act, it is still up to the judge to make the award and the judge may reduce your claim or award nothing at all.

It is also important to remember that even if the court awards you compensation, the organisation may refuse, or not be able to pay. If this happens you should ask the court about what you should do to enforce the judgement.


Of course if they did not have a policy of sending letters out to all parents in the Local Authority then that would be different. We would need to hear more about that.

prh47bridge Sat 20-Apr-13 20:49:24

No case whatsoever. Many other parents may have received letters. It is unlikely all did as the LA has no way of identifying all parents with children who may require school places. The parents who do not receive letters do not have any case against the LA whatsoever. And I repeat - the law is that education is the responsibility of the parent, not the LA. The LA has therefore not failed in any way.

BoffinMum Sat 20-Apr-13 20:25:01

Dispute that.

If all other parents had received letters, and she had not because they had used the wrong address when they knew the new one, then I think there would be a strong argument for redress.

DeepRedBetty Sat 20-Apr-13 20:11:11

I applied for places for dtds when they were three. By a long distance the nearest school. Got a letter back to say I'd been a bit enthusiastic and actually I didn't need to apply for another year yet, but not to worry, they'd noted the application and would be in touch.

A year and a half passes. They don't get in touch. Other families are talking about their places, I'm thinking that I really should get a letter to confirm place soon. Maybe it's because they're late spring babies and I'd arranged with school for them to start in January. I haven't moved or anything, no excuse to send letters to wrong address.

So I call. No record, and extremely unhelpful staff at LEA. Start to panic...

Call school. Who fish out their copy of letter from LEA, confirming places had been applied for. LEA continue to wriggle on hook. Finally insist on seeing proof that I've lived at this address since date of original application. Fume quietly and send photocopies of driving licence, passport and electricity bills dating back to mid nineteen eighties.

LEA finally give in and agree to look in files. Find copies of original applications, and their replies.

Never did get apology for the stress. But did get our places!

wonderingagain Sat 20-Apr-13 18:01:15

In many countries you need to register everyone in your household when you move. A similar scheme here would avoid all kinds of problems regarding service provision but us Brits don't like to be monitored too much.

difficultpickle Sat 20-Apr-13 17:49:48

True smile. I've only been organised at home since I had ds. At work I have someone who organises me and I know what a tough time they have blush

literarygeek Sat 20-Apr-13 17:05:02

Oops sorry. Most people on here are organised / aware of the system and switched on. It's those that are not for whatever reason or circumstance where the problem arises.

literarygeek Sat 20-Apr-13 17:03:57

bisjo that's great. Most pe

prh47bridge Sat 20-Apr-13 16:30:58

BoffinMum - No the Data Protection Act would not allow her to claim damages in this situation. Apart from anything else the law is clear that it is the parents' responsibility to ensure their child receives an education. The LA is under no obligation whatsoever to send out letters reminding people to apply. Even if they did send out letters they may be lost in the post or parents may bin them as junk mail and then claim they didn't receive them. The LA has no liability here. There is no case for damages and an appeal panel would be entirely unmoved by this argument.

AnnandBarryAgain Sat 20-Apr-13 16:24:32

Everything acrylic said

difficultpickle Sat 20-Apr-13 15:14:26

Out of interest how did your friend get a place at a pre-school? That must have involved making an application, phone call etc?

difficultpickle Sat 20-Apr-13 15:12:19

Sorry I assumed that your friend would have access to the internet. Even so, when I had to enquire with the LEA on when I needed to apply for a school place I did that by phone and gave them my details. I then called again nearer the time to when they would be sending out the application forms to check that they had my correct details. The only time I accessed the internet was when I had received the application and saw that it could be completed on line. However in the end I had already made an alternative schooling choice so chose not to bother completing the form.

I didn't rely on anyone else to tell me when I needed to apply as I only ever went to ds's nursery for end of term parties, performances and it didn't occur to me that that would have been the right place to ask. I also have a busy job, work more than full time and the only way I can keep track of things concerning ds was to put them in my work diary. I don't have anyone else to do anything for me either (single parent). It is always hard to balance home and work life but it is just something that has to be done.

I am now planning to look at senior schools for ds. To ensure I don't miss deadlines I have done a spreadsheet with key information, dates etc and put those dates in my diary (plus reminders leading up to deadlines). Just the same as I would do if it were a work project. I have access to a computer but if I didn't I would just put that info on a notice board at home/on the fridge etc so I have a visual reminder.

That sounds very organised but I struggle to keep it so and I have to make a real effort.

BoffinMum Sat 20-Apr-13 13:55:58

Can you prove the Local Authority had her current address in some form or another, but made a careless mistake in reading her data and used an old address to send her a form that everyone else received because it was sent to to correct address?

If so, she can claim damages from them under the terms of the Data Protection Act if her child's education or welfare has been compromised as a result (and having to travel 10 miles in a taxi is arguably just that). This could be cited during an appeal, and may end up being the deciding factor in whether they manage to squeeze her into the local school or not (i.e. if it saved them ££££).

The key point is - did other parents get paperwork sent to the correct address, that she did not, even the local authority had the correct address for her on their database?

You may need to do a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act in order to establish what addresses they held for her, when documents were sent out and so on.

literarygeek Sat 20-Apr-13 13:44:44

Completely agree with branching.
I think school admissions should be treated like vaccinations, with letters and reminders and phone calls to follow up if you don't attend. I can see that huge numbers of people wouldn't know what to do. It is likely that those kids most in need that will miss out- chaotic home life/no social support/don't speak English: mild/ sub clinical intellectual disability (not enough for SS support) etc.

my dd is the first among ANY of my friends' dc's to go to school, nursery said nothing to me about applying, no letter came from the council, I have a very busy job and not really friends with nursery mums. I was educated here and am switched on (to an extent!). If this were not the case, I can totally see how you could miss it. Sadly, it's the kids that miss out.

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 20-Apr-13 12:42:29

I feel very sorry for the little girl, rainbow.

Her dad is in prison. Goodness only knows what for and how his criminality, trial and conviction has impacted on her and her mother in her crucial early years. She has moved 4 times. Now, just as she has finally settled a bit into a nice-sounding community with supportive people like libertine in it she faces further stress and disruption. It isn't her fault.

Rainbowinthesky Sat 20-Apr-13 11:24:06

I find it hard to have much sympathy although agree it's a horrible situation. If you have moved 4 times in 4 years surely you would want to make doubly sure the LA had your most up to date address. A simple phone call would have confirmed this and avoided all of this stress.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 20-Apr-13 11:19:00

Also, I heard this talked about once at nursery pick up - one mum saying she must get round to it and me saying - yes, deadline is X - she thought it was a week later. Pure luck, not lots of conversations.

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