Family & Education

Parent's complaint against Menorah High upheld

The case stemmed from an unsuccessful application to the state-aided girls school two years ago


A complaint against Menorah High School in North-West London over admissions two years ago has been upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The adjudicator found that some members of a panel looking into a complaint made by a parent against the state-aided school had not been sufficiently independent.

Last year the ombudsman rejected a complaint against the school’s appeal procedure that had been brought by the parent, whose had daughter failed to win a place in 2019.

Menorah has consistently been one of the top-performing schools in England for academic progress.

But the parent, known only as Mr P, raised a second objection with the ombudsman.

In his report into this, the ombudsman said Menorah accepted it had failed to follow the Schools Admissions Code in 2019 “insofar as there was no independent oversight” of the ballot for places. But the school maintained these had been allocated fairly.

Mr P “suspected impropriety” and although he did not have evidence himself, he obtained it from another parent: a letter from a staff member to a governor apparently responding to “allegations of involvement in the selection of pupils”.

The governor had also referred to the “colour coding” of applicants on a spreadsheet — which, the ombudsman noted, “would have no purpose in a random ballot”.

When Mr P complained, the school appointed an independent investigator and a panel to decide the outcome. It concluded “there were flaws in the ballot due to lack of independent oversight, but found no evidence the school deliberately conducted an unlawful admissions process,” the ombudsman said.

The governors accepted the panel’s recommendation for independent oversight of future ballots.

However, Mr P complained to the ombudsman that the investigator and two of the panel members had family, professional and financial links to the school.

Upholding his complaint, the ombudsman found they “did not appear to be independent of the school in the way we would expect for a complaint such as that made by Mr P.

“That is not to criticise the investigator or panel members, who may well have approached the complaint with a completely open mind. There is no evidence to suggest they were biased.”

But government guidance said “it is important there can be no perception of bias”, the ombudsman stated.

“Mr P has demonstrated that this is not the case here.”

It would have been better to have people on the panel “without links to the school”, although the ombudsman recognised “this poses a challenge for a school that has such strong ties to the community”.

Mr P had been unhappy the panel had not heard from “the discontented governor” he believed had alleged impropriety.

Although the panel had invited him to attend, the governor did not reply and the panel had no power to compel him, the ombudsman said.

The ombudsman concluded there were “no grounds” to question the outcome of the investigation.

David Landau, chairman of Menorah’s governors, commented that “the connections that [the] panel had with the school were sufficiently remote for us not to consider them significant and in practice that seems to be confirmed by the ombudsman.

“We are happy to accept the ombudsman’s findings that they could have been perceived as biased and will therefore be stricter in future. “

The oversight arrangements for the ballot had been approved by the ombudsman, he said.

While some schools ask the local council to run ballots, Barnet, Menorah’s local authority, said this was rare and responsibility lay with the governors or academy trust for religious schools that had their own admissions policy.

Local authorities were “not responsible” for vetting the ballot procedure, Barnet said.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive