A Bromley grammar school has been rapped by the local government ombudsman after an investigation found a number of faults in its handling of an admissions appeal case.
A boy and his father had complained to the ombudsman they had not had a fair hearing when appealing the decision by St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School in Orpington not to allow the boy to join for sixth form.
The boy had achieved above the required grades in the subjects he wanted to study at A-Level, and had also gained more than the total required points tally to enter, but had missed the grade in mathematics. The school rescinded its offer to the boy.
The ombudsman looked at the process the school went through when hearing the family’s appeal and found a number of faults in the admissions and appeals processes.
The investigation criticised the school for not writing to the boy to tell him it had refused his place.
Instead of advising him in writing of his right to appeal, the head of sixth form directed the family to the school’s website during a telephone conversation initiated by his father. This lack of formal notification meant the school failed to arrange and hear the family’s appeal within 30 days of the boy receiving his GCSE results, as it should have done.
The investigation also found the decision to refuse the boy’s place was taken by the headteacher and head of sixth form, rather than the governing body as a whole, which fails to satisfy the requirements of the Schools Admissions Code.
The ombudsman also criticised the clerk’s record keeping of the hearing, including not being able to show if the panel considered whether the admission arrangements comply with the law or whether the school had met its duties under the Equality Act.
The appeal panel also did not consider all the points the boy made in his case and also misdirected him on where to go if he was unhappy with the appeal by pointing him to the wrong body instead of the ombudsman.
In its conclusion, the ombudsman called on the school to apologise to the teenager and pay him £400 to recognise his injustice and avoidable frustration and distress. It also recommended the school pay the father £100 to recognise the avoidable time and trouble he was caused in pursuing the complaint.
The school has also been asked to arrange a fresh hearing for the teenager, with a different panel and clerk to consider his appeal properly.
As part of the investigation process, the school will now have three months to consider the ombudsman’s findings and to officially respond.
Headteacher Andrew Rees commented on the findings: “We acknowledge the Ombudsman’s report and broadly accept its findings.
“In particular, we would continue to disagree with the views put forward by the complainant in the appeal, which have been upheld by the Ombudsman. However, we fully respect the process and welcome every opportunity to improve and enhance our processes and arrangements.
“We have therefore already taken a number of proactive steps, as recommended by the Ombudsman, that will ensure that issues that arose on this occasion will not occur again, particularly with respect to communicating how our applicants access our appeals process.
“We also look forward to the determination to be made by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator on whether our admissions arrangements do meet requirements.
“As a School we welcome pupils of all faiths and backgrounds, championing dignity and respect for all. Our aim is always to support everyone within and outside our community to grow and flourish, and the personal welfare of our young people and their educational success is paramount.
“By listening and working with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, together with the Local Authority, the Diocese of Rochester and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, we will strive to continue to ensure that our processes and procedures align with our ethos.”