The Government has issued new regulations and the Department for Education has provided new guidance to assist admission authorities to facilitate school admission appeals as it is not currently possible to comply with all the requirements of the School Admission Appeals Code and the School Admissions Regulations.
This is due to the current school closures and because face to face hearings are not permissible under the government guidelines on social distancing.
The new regulations will apply to any appeals submitted between 24 April 2020 and 31 January 2021, and any appeals lodged prior to this which have not yet been decided.
Appealing for a school place
If you have not yet submitted an appeal for any school your child has been refused admission to and wish to do so, you now have untill May 29 to submit your form.
Any appeal forms submitted after May 29 will still be allocated a hearing date however it may not be possible for your appeal to be heard with the other multiple hearings for a particular school, where this applies.
If you have already submitted an appeal form and you wish to provide additional information relevant to your appeal, you will be entitled to do so prior to the hearing.
All appellants will be contacted as soon as is reasonably practical and you will be provided with a minimum of two calendar weeks’ notice of your hearing date.
N.B. Any appellants wishing to appeal for a primary school place for September 2020 now have a minimum of 28 days to lodge an appeal as the previous timescale noted on the Council website has had to be reviewed in light of the new regulations.
There remains the requirement that the panel who will decide your appeal consists of a minimum of 3 members, with one from each of the two categories having to be present (Education or Lay member), however if a panel member has to withdraw because of a coronavirus related condition, the panel may continue with only 2 members (regardless whether they are an Education or Lay member) and the Chair will have the casting vote (a new Chair may need to be appointed from the remaining two members if the Chair was the member of the panel who had to withdraw).
The panel will still have the benefit of a clerk with legal knowledge to advise them during the hearing and the decision process and to take notes of the same, and the Clerk will be responsible for sending out the decision letters within 7 calendar days of the decision being made wherever possible.
In the case of multiple appeals for the same school the appeal panel’s decision will not be made until all of the appeals for the same school scheduled at that time have been heard.
These will be conducted remotely either by telephone or video conference, or on the basis of written submissions only.
The clerk will contact the panel members, the admission authority and the appellant(s) in advance of the hearing, either by email, post, or telephone, to ascertain whether the parties are able to participate fully in a remote hearing e.g. has the technology to do so, as the hearing must be conducted fairly and transparently.
If the appeal panel does not consider the appeal hearing can be conducted remotely they will make their decision based on the parties’ written submissions.
The clerk will provide all parties with sufficient notice of the hearing date, the proposed way of hearing the appeal, and the deadlines by which written submissions and evidence must be provided so that the case papers can be sent out allowing reasonable time to consider them.
Appeals conducted by telephone or video conference
These will be conducted using Microsoft Teams.
Guidance as to how to participate using this platform will be given to all parties prior to the appeal hearing.
The appeal hearing remains private and no parties will be permitted to record the proceedings, however appellants will still be entitled to be represented or accompanied by a friend at the hearing.
The appeal panel will also need to consider any requests for reasonable adjustments to be made e.g. the requirement for an interpreter to be present.
If during the allocated timeslot for a hearing there is a technical failure which prevents either the admission authority or the appellant from participating, the Clerk will endeavour to reschedule the hearing, however if it is impractical to do so the appeal will still go ahead and be decided on the written information submitted prior to the appeal.
Following the conclusion of the remote hearing, the panel will consider in private, save for the clerk’s presence, their decision.
Appeals decided on written submissions
The clerk will provide panel members with the admission authority and appellant’s cases and any additional evidence submitted.
The panel and clerk will then conduct a remote meeting to consider the submissions and formulate questions for the admission authority and appellant to clarify any points made and request further relevant information.
The clerk will then send the questions and case papers to each of the parties so that the parties can respond and make any further submissions.
The clerk will then send each party’s submission to the other party and will provide a set deadline for any information or evidence to be received in order to be considered in the appeal panel’s decision.
The panel and clerk will then meet again remotely to consider all the information and the panel will make its decision.