Has anybody ever complained to the ombudsman about an appeal?

(13 Posts)
Grantaire Sat 23-Jul-16 09:48:35

I am fuming. I am absolutely fuming. Our appeal failed on Wednesday and I don't think we were given a fair appeal at all. It was a shambles from start to finish.

The main problems:

They held the appeal outside of the mandatory time frame listed in the appeals code (held on the very last day possible, meaning the final day of term and we now have NO way of finding a plan b. The LA didn't tell us when the appeal was happening but had told school the date weeks before we were finally told and we only found out because the school admin officer mentioned it in passing one day when we were chatting about something else.

They sent us the school's case three working days before the appeal, leaving us no time at all to understand it, review it, or build up a response, though we did our fecking best. We should have received it 10 days beforehand apparently. The clerk confirmed that the school had sent it to the LA 'weeks ago' and we 'should have received it in plenty of time'.

On my way to the appeal, the council phoned in a flap because they weren't sure if we were attending our appeal that day. When we got to the appeal, they weren't expecting us despite me confirming our attendance in writing and on the phone more than once.

They didn't reply to several emails requesting information we needed to build our appeal.

They didn't send us the names of the panel members who would attend the appeal in advance and whaddaya know, we knew one of them. They asked us to go ahead anyway as they were sure he'd be impartial. We felt given it was the last day of term and we only had 6 weeks left before ds was due to start school, we had little alternative.

They said that as it was a VA school, the governor and head would represent the school. Not true on the day. The LA sent a lawyer who spent most of his time giving opinion on the school (incorrect most of the time) and when we started talking about flaws in the school's case, he just said that the LA didn't agree with the school and their case and its explanation of events hadn't happened in their opinion (referring to past PAN arrangements and excepted pupils). He said the school's written case was wrong but refused to comment on what had actually happened. So we had two days to review the school's case and on the day, a bloke from the LA denied the school's case anyway but didn't make any alternative statements for us to deal with.

The panel members interrupted us a few times when we were stating our case and said they couldn't hear us (big room, sitting several metres from them and there were huge fans on full blast behind the panel because it was so hot). We got the impression several times from their blank expressions that they hadn't heard us properly.

Sure enough, we've had our letter today about why we failed. It refers to points which were discussed which never happened. Just complete nonsense. It failed to understand several of the points we made, claims that certain things were cleared up which weren't and lists our reasons for appeal and their reasons for rejecting and they've completely misrepresented our case. It's like reading about somebody else's case.

I don't know what to do. I don't know if I have the energy to handle this. This whole thing has brought me to my knees. We have no school for DS, the appeal process was our one chance and I spent three months building our case, reviewing legislation and telling myself I was at least doing my best for my tiny boy. And they cocked up the admin, didn't listen, claimed the school's case wasn't true anyway and have written this letter to us today which is no representation whatsoever of our case.

The clerk chased us as we left the appeal to apologise. She said she had no idea we hadn't received information, was surprised the LA hadn't sent stuff on time as they definitely had the information there. She even said that our case was utterly unique and she had never heard such grounds for appeal. The letter we got afterwards made it sound like a run of the mill, Mr and Mrs Grantaire have complained about having two children in separate schools and it's not the LA's duty to worry about childcare type case. We said on many occasions in the appeal that we were not remotely claiming problems with transport or childcare. We were very, very specific. It's all in our written case which is 7 pages long and extremely complicated.

I know there's no point going to the LGO. It won't change the fact that DS can't go to school in 6 weeks. But in protecting their 0% success rate for appealing parents, they've made a mockery of three months of my life. I haven't slept for weeks. I keep bursting into tears and I am so anxious, I feel sick all day every day.

WhattodoSue Sat 23-Jul-16 10:09:57

I can't help in any way but I did just want to say your appeal sounds shambolic and hideously stressful. I really hope the amazing appeal experts on here are able to offer you positive advice.

DiamondAge Sat 23-Jul-16 10:13:09

As long as the school is neither an academy or free school then it may be worth complaint to the LGO, who states:

Information and guidance offered to parents should be clear, and parents should be given all the information and evidence they need to appeal a decision ahead of any panel taking place. It is crucial that panels consider the full admission details, make reasoned choices based on clear evidence, show evidence of that reasoning and inform families of the full decision. The schools admission process can be an emotional time and it is essential that parents have trust in the fairness of that process.

Their judgement could lead to a second appreal panel with different members. Based on the information you've provided this seems very likely as you've listed lots of 'maladministration' by the LA/school.

If, however, your underlying case isn't strong enough then a second panel will still refuse. Your decision on whether to spend your energy complaining to the LGO should be based on the strength of your case had the correct process been followed. Have you had advice on this, are you confident that a fair and reasoned panel process would support your DS attending this school?

Also why does this refusal result in no school for your DS? Have you decline an offered school?

Grantaire Sat 23-Jul-16 14:20:00

We've accepted the offered school in order to remain in the system but it's too much of a safeguarding risk. He can't go there.

I don't trust the LA to conduct a fair appeal anymore and it might finish me fighting them.

admission Sat 23-Jul-16 20:36:34

If the school is a VA school, then the case for the school should have been done by someone who knew the school. That would normally be the head / chair of governors but if the school have contracted the LA to do it then it could be someone from the LA.
However if I am reading your post right the LA rep in effect presented a different case from that which you had received in writing. That on its own is sufficient grounds for a referral to the LGO but quite a few of the other things mentioned would also cast doubt over this appeal.
It being outside the mandatory time frame is a technical offence but not one that would be sufficient for the LGO to request a new appeal as a minimum. Not officially being told the date of the appeal and being sent the papers very late are good reasons to refer.
I know that it is extra stress but actually a referral to the LGO is the only sensible way forward.

prh47bridge Sat 23-Jul-16 23:51:30

I know there's no point going to the LGO

There absolutely is point in going to the LGO. As Admission says, it is the only sensible way forward. Your post contains multiple grounds that should lead to a successful referral. That may only lead to a fresh hearing but it may lead to a recommendation that your child be admitted without a further hearing.

And in answer to the question in the thread title, yes I have complained to the ombudsman. Been there, done that. My first two engagements with them were in relation to an appeal for a place at the local primary school for my youngest son. The first time they came down in my favour and ordered a fresh hearing. When there were further problems at the second hearing (including the LA continuing to argue that it was an ICS case when it clearly was not and, worse, the panel accepting the LA's argument) the LGO told the LA to admit my son to the local school.

You can try arguing that, given the multiple problems, the LGO should order the LA to admit immediately but that is, I'm afraid, a long shot. However, given the safeguarding issue, it is certainly worth asking.

I would be happy to help you with your submission to the LGO. Feel free to PM me if you want any assistance.

Grantaire Sun 24-Jul-16 10:00:40

Prh, thank you. Again. I seem to have relied on you and admission (thank you), tiggy, panel etc inordinately for the last few months. I'm just so tired. It shouldn't be this hard and I'm making myself ill. I had faith in the process and expected a fair hearing.

I will pm you. I don't know until the lgo office opens tomorrow what I have to do. The website seems to suggest I have to complain to the la first. I can't bear to speak to them right now.

prh47bridge Sun 24-Jul-16 12:41:02

As this is a school admissions case you've already done your complaining to the LA - that was the appeal. You are now entitled to take the case to the LGO.

NobodyInParticular Wed 27-Jul-16 12:35:01

flowers OP.
I do t have anything useful to add, except to sympathise!

It sounds as though they totally fucked you over there, as I would expect from my own experience of similar organisations, such as the NHS. Clearly the Appeals verdict for you is in no relation to the actual facts, but that's fine because they can keep their 100% no appeals success statistic.

How massively unfair on your DC that the only school you can now send him to is a safeguarding risk, this is very sad and very wrong.

JudyCoolibar Wed 27-Jul-16 12:37:52

Have a look at the decisions that are published on the LGO website - they demonstrate that people have had successful outcomes with them in school admission cases.

Longlost10 Fri 29-Jul-16 07:56:03

It's all in our written case which is 7 pages long and extremely complicated.

this is probably where you lost it. You are far more likely to get a sympathetic hearing if you are direct and concise. This is the advice my friend on the appeals panel of a hugely over subscribed local school always gives.

hugsarealwaysneededhere1 Tue 02-Aug-16 18:36:14

I did this year. PM me if you need any further advice.
You can appeal again in September too.

eddiemairswife Tue 02-Aug-16 18:47:50

If this was an appeal for a reception place in September you cannot appeal again for the same academic year unless the ombudsman recommends a second appeal.

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