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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:52 pm 
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My daughter is due to change to a local secondary foundation school in Sept 2008. The LEA sent us an offer "on behalf of the governors" which we accepted for her first preference school. Several days later they said they had made an error and placed her in an under-subscribed school locally. She was the only one at her primary school to get none of her preferred schools and be placed in the unpopular school. The LEA said it withdrew the place due to the Head telling them them to withdraw it (as another child was nearer). We have investigated this and we understand only a committee of the governors or governors can withdraw a place, it is not clear the Head acted for the Governors. The LEA will rely on the fact that they may, not must, withdraw a place offer in error - under the School Admissions Code, I wonder if anyone has similar experiences and can advise. As far as we are aware the LEA made a legally binding offer which we accepted, notwithstanding this it is totally unreasonable for the LEA & School not to honour the offer. Which my daughter and we relied upon. We also understand an out of county school was told my daughter had gained her first preference place, and this has prejudiced our position with this and other schools that historically have accepted only first choice preferences.
The annoying thing about this is that we were in the catschment area last year and our daughter reasonably expected to be admitted, given that the criteria on admissions now excludes teachers' children and other categories previously high on the admission criteria.

Thanks in aniticipation of any advice you can give.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:59 pm 
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Hi

sorry I can't advise but and sure someone will be along soon who can.

Whole thing sounds outrageous - to be offered a place and then have it taken away????!!!

Keep fighting!

Herman


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:43 pm 
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I have come across the opposite the Foundation school not following its own admissions policy and having to go over PAN to put it right - no places were withdrawn from those who should not have been offered them.

It's the school that has made the mistake - the LA are just following their instruction - did they give any advice? I would have thought you had striong grounds for complaint.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:13 pm 
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The law is not entirely clear here, but the length of time that passes before the place is withdrawn seems to be significant.

The following precedents may be of interest (but come without guarantees!):

R v Beatrix Potter School (1997)

The head offered a place in error, and the LA withdrew it the same day. Parents appealed to the High Court on grounds of "legitimate expectation" of a place. High Court refused the appeal (and the place) as the offer was withdrawn the same day.

Ombudsman complaint 99/C/1876

Head offered 5 places. LEA withdrew them after 3 days.
Ombudsman decided in this case the delay was too long, and amounted to maladminstration. Places confirmed.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:31 pm 
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To clarify the position regarding the LEA and the School:

The LEA sent us an allocation letter giving us details of the first preference school stating "this offer is made on behalf of the Governing Body" - it was a Foundation School. Several days later it said "I am sorry to inform you that an error was made and we are unable to offer *** (our daughter) a place at *** School. As you are aware, **** School is a foundation school. This means that they assess applications for the school under their own published admissions criteria and they decide who will get places under this criteria. They send the information to us and we enter this onto our database. They were unable to offer a place for *** (our daughter) and sent us the information but due to an error in this office, when allocations were made *** (our daughter) was marked on our system incorrectly. This has resulted in a letter being generated in offering a place at *** School". The LEA has subsequently stated as above the offer was withdrawn due to a communication from the Head of the School pointing out the error.

At various times it has been implied if we obtained a place for our daughter the child who should have had that place would not now have a place or that the LEA/School had to withdraw the offer to us. But that is not my understanding of the Schools Admission Code, it says a child not given a place in error should have one irrespective of anything else (they must be admitted - as in your case) and only an LEA may withdraw a place where there is an error. Not that it has to withdraw an offer; this usually deals with parents who have fraudulently given wrong addresses to get in school.

By the way the LEA has been well aware of it's understaffing and problems in processing schools admissions paperwork for some time, as it was referred to by it's own staff in meetings with local Heads in the last year or so.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:07 pm 
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Looking into the Court case and Ombusman issues. Thanks again


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:38 pm 
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I hadn't fully taken on board that the LA was solely to blame for the error.

Unfortunately, according to the Code, the school (as the admission authority) can reasonably withdraw the offer in this situation.

    Withdrawing offers of places
    1.43 Once an offer of a school place has been made through the co-ordinated scheme, it is only reasonable for an admission authority to withdraw that offer in very limited circumstances. These may include ........... where a place was offered by the local authority, not the admission authority, in error.

It is absolutely right that the headteacher could not act on his own:

    A decision to refuse admission must not be made by one individual in a school. Where the school is its own admission authority the whole governing body, or an admissions committee established by the governing body, must make such decisions

Such an important decision ought to have been put in writing to the LA. It would be worth asking the LA or the school for a copy, invoking the data protection act if necessary. The exact wording used might be important evidence. ("I am instructed by the Governors' Admissions Committee ....." is not what you want to see!)

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:12 pm 
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This was the first preference school, so it may be that your daughter was offered places by lower ranked schools, which were then re-allocated because the LEA had erroneously recorded that she had a place at a higher ranked school. The audit reports should show whether this happened. If it did, perhaps appealing to those schools, or going on their waiting lists, would be helpful, if only as a backup plan. If those schools are community or voluntary controlled, i.e. their admissions are handled by same LEA that made this mistake, you ought to have a strong case at appeal.

It would also be useful to know exactly when the LEA was notified of their mistake. It seems that this was after allocation day, when all the damage was already done.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:23 pm 
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WP that is a really good point - perhaps the LA should be asked which other schools were able to offer places before these 'offers' got overwritten by their mistake.

I think you do have grounds for taking this to the ombudsman because you accepted the place in good faith.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:43 pm 
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WP wrote:
This was the first preference school, so it may be that your daughter was offered places by lower ranked schools, which were then re-allocated because the LEA had erroneously recorded that she had a place at a higher ranked school. The audit reports should show whether this happened. If it did, perhaps appealing to those schools, or going on their waiting lists, would be helpful, if only as a backup plan. If those schools are community or voluntary controlled, i.e. their admissions are handled by same LEA that made this mistake, you ought to have a strong case at appeal.

It would also be useful to know exactly when the LEA was notified of their mistake. It seems that this was after allocation day, when all the damage was already done.


Thanks. The LEA say that our daughter has not been disadvantaged as regards our other preferences as our applications for these schools were also unsuccesful. We have gone on the waiting lists for the other schools and will probably appeal as a backup as suggested, neither are community or voluntary controlled schools by the same LEA. How would we get the audit reports - freedom of information act request? The deadlines are tight for appeals.
We have asked the school for a timeline, and the LEA, of when the mistake was notified. We believe the school has a list of allocations from the LEA before the offers arrive with the parents which they are supposed to check against the school's own allocation list. At this stage they may have been able to phone us and withdraw the offer, via the governors sub-committee or otherwise, before it was communicated to us or our daughter causing less distress.


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