Keeping Link Officers up-to-date on developments at the LGO
In-year infant admission appeals
Please make admissions teams and panels aware of the following advice.
We have noticed over the past year an issue with in-year appeals for a place in an infant class. It does not apply to appeals about the normal admissions round. It is relevant where:
A family has moved to the area outside the normal admissions round; AND
They have applied for a place in years R, 1 or 2 at a school where there are already 30 or more children in the class; AND
The child falls into one of the categories of ‘excepted pupils’ listed in the School Admissions (Infant Class Sizes) (England) Regulations 2012.
If a child could be admitted as an excepted pupil, a decision to refuse to admit cannot be based on infant class size. This is because excepted pupils can be admitted without the school having to take qualifying measures to comply with infant class size law.
That does not mean the child must be admitted. There may be other reasons to refuse to admit (for example, small classroom size, school already overcrowded, other excepted pupils already admitted). But these are all ‘prejudice’ reasons to refuse a place, not ‘infant class size’ reasons.
This has significant implications for admitting authorities and appeal panels:
Admitting authorities need to have a clear record of the reasons they did not admit a child as an excepted pupil. We have seen several cases where there is no record at all and the place has simply been refused because there are already 30 children in the class.
The decision letter to parents needs to state these reasons clearly. Many authorities use a standard letter which refers to infant class size legislation as the reason for the refusal. This is incorrect, if the child could be admitted as an excepted pupil.
An appeal against the refusal should not be conducted as an infant class size appeal.
It is this last point in particular which is causing concern. The School Admissions Appeals Code does not explicitly say that when a child that could be admitted as an excepted pupil is refused a school place, the resulting appeal should be a two-stage appeal. But it does say that the first task of any panel hearing an appeal for a place in an infant class is to decide whether the appeal is an infant class size appeal (The School Admission Appeals Code 2012, paragraph 4.4(a)). And an appeal can only be an infant class size appeal when an admissions authority has refused to admit a child because to do so would breach the infant class size limit (paragraph 4.2). The admission of an excepted pupil would not do this. Therefore the appeal should be a normal two-stage appeal.
If an authority does not consider the child would be an excepted pupil if admitted, it must record the reason why. This will usually be because in the authority’s view there is a place available at another school within ‘a reasonable distance’. There is no statutory definition of ‘a reasonable distance’ and this will vary from location to location. So authorities must consider each case individually.
If parents have applied for a place at their nearest school, and the authority is refusing to admit because there is a place available at another school, the authority should, as a matter of good practice, explain in the refusal letter why it considers the alternative school to be within a reasonable distance. And the appeal panel must explicitly consider this issue in the subsequent appeal.
Local Government Report/annual letters
This year the publication of the annual letters will coincide with publication of an in-depth report reviewing the last year in local government complaints. This report will feature some of the statistics in the annual letters. This is the first time we are publishing such a report and we aim to make it an annual publication. We will email you a copy of your annual letter around a week before the report is published (which we expect to be in early July).
Once published, we welcome your feedback on the report (please email firstname.lastname@example.org). However, we are not in a position to provide any further detailed information about the data we present in the report or in your annual letter. We understand that our figures may not match the data collected by local authorities. Typically the differences between our data and data held by local authorities reflect the fact that we refer a proportion of recorded complaints to the council for local resolution but the complainant may not always pursue the complaint. We are satisfied that the figures we will provide accurately reflect the data we hold for the financial year 2013-14.
Responses to requests for information
We've had a number of cases where councils haven't sent us the information we've asked for so we can progress complaints.
Before sending us a response, please double-check you're sending everything we've asked for. This will save us all time in the long run.
Letters to new councillors
We’ve received a number of queries about whether we are sending letters out to newly elected councillors this year. We will be sending letters – just a little later this year (we are aiming to send them out in July). This is in response to feedback we’ve received that councillors are inundated with information when they are first elected.
LGO website available in 75 languages
We've had the BrowseAloud software available on our website for a number of years. (BrowseAloud reads aloud website content making it more accessible to a large number of people.)
A new version of BrowseAloud has recently been released and is now available on our website – look for the icon at the top of every web page. This version has lots of new features but the most interesting improvement is the translation function which can translate the web pages and pdf documents into 75 languages. For 33 of those languages there is a matching voice so the web content/document can be read aloud.
If your customers ask for information about the LGO in different languages then they might find the website a good place to start.
Visit our news page to see all newly published investigation reports.