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Complaints about Academies

You will find an updated article on the Education Funding Agency outcomes here.

Updated September 2012

Complaints about about the appeal panel process by Independent Appeal Panels organised by academies should be sent to the Education Funding Agency (EFA, the Academy arm of the Department for Education). These should be submitted by sending a completed complaint form by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by post to the Admission Appeal Complaints team at the Education Funding Agency. You will find the relevant page of the EFA website here, but will search in vain for advice on how to complain. -There is a laid down procedure to be followed by the EFA here. Following a complaint, the EFA will decide without further input from the complainant, whether there is no fault, whether there is maladministration without injustice, or whether there is maladminstration causing injustice. Only the third decision leads to an outcome that affects the complainant - a fresh appeal lin front of a new panel (not necessarily a new clerk). I am not clear what the process is for Free Schools, as this does not appear to be present on the DfE website or in the documentation. 

If you are seeking advice from the government on the process or what to put in your complaint, you will be disappointed; I think the assumption is that parents are familiar enough with what happesn to be able to work it through for themselves. It is obvioulsy unfortunate that you probably haven't considered this route until after the hearing and so will not have recorded the key issues. However, maladministration or injustice essentially arise from breaches in the School Admissions Appeals Code. Appeals for all other types of maintained schools are to the Local Government Ombudsman, whose website is full of helpful advice for parents, much of which is relevant to complaints about academies.  You will also find further information here

Each appeal decision letter is required (not all do as not all schools or academies are keen on parents complaining!) to tell parents where they go to to complain, but regrettably some are still wrong.  

I have considerable experience in supporting parents through the Ombudsman process, where I am able to identify all key issues and simply take over the process if you wish, greatly reducing stress and time spent, and using my expertise to maximise your chances of success (I will also tell parents honestly if I can't see a way forward). I now have successful experience of taking complaints on maladministration of Appeal Panels to the Secretary of State  and am very happy to continue this, my own track record having seen 35 successes from my last 40 complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Last year I won two out of thirteen of all successful complaints nationally about maladministration of admission appeal panels for academies  settled by 30th September 2011, and half of all those in Kent! The statistics show it is far harder to win a complaint for an Academy Appeal Panel than with the Local Government Ombudsman (see below). 

The full figures are as follows:

A. Maladministration that the YPLA considers may have caused injustice.  Where this is the decision a fresh appeal is required to be heard by a different panel.

B. Maladministration that the YPLA does not consider to have caused injustice.  Where this is the decision no fresh appeal is required

C. No maladministration.

 

OUTCOMES OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT ADMISSION APPEAL PANEL ADMINISTRATION MADE TO YPLA BEFORE 30 SEPTEMBER 2011

 

Total received

Decision Pending / Awaiting Further Info from parent or Clerk A* B* C* Parent Withdrew Complaint
National 107 16 7 3 78 3
Kent County Council Area 18 0 4 1 13 0
Medway Council Area 0 - - - - -

* Letters refer to decisions in previous paragraph.

Compared to Ombudsman decisions, there is a remarkably low proportion of successful complaints settled so far. Of course it may be that those where decisions are pending include a higher proportion of cases which may be settled in favour of the complainant.

By comparison, for 2010 entry, the Local Government Ombudsman heard 1403 school admission complaints nationally, fairly similar proportionately, given the number of schools involved. For Kent in 2010, there were 35 complaints to the Ombudsman about school admissions for county/community schools although the outcomes are not recorded. Kent foundation and voluntary aided schools produced 77 complaints of which 30 were the subject of local settlements (this means in general that the complaints were upheld with a fresh appeal or a recommendation to admit directly to the school), and in Medway, 6 out of 18 were upheld.

There thus appears to be a dramatic fall in the chances of success for complaints about academies, three possible reasons being as follows. Firstly, those still pending may produce a higher proportion of success, as they may be the subject of further investigation, but this would still leave the chances of success much lower. Secondly, the process of determining outcomes has significant differences. Normally in Ombudsman cases, there is discussion of the issues arising between the parties so that all have a chance to comment on the other's case. The complainant usually sees the appeal clerk's notes and the admission authority's comments on the case. he is then able to challenge any wrong information put forward. The Ombudsman issues a provisional view which either side can challenge and put forward further information. On the other hand, with the EFA, the academy gets to see the complaint, but the parent does not see their response - this is clearly unfair! There may be limited informal discussion, but the first real indication one has of the  outcome is the final decision. Thirdly, the Ombudsman website is packed with information and advice on complaints, backed up by a telephone support line. There is no such help available for complaints to the YPLA.  There is solely information on the address to send a complaint to. One of the massive frustrations reported by schools and parents alike, is the difficulty in contacting real people - telephone numbers all too often lead to message boards where no one answers!

I am happy to be corrected on any of the above views or information.

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 12:56