The Government has issued further regulations and the Department for Education has provided updated guidance to assist admission authorities to continue to facilitate school admission appeals, whilst it is not currently possible to comply with all the requirements of the School Admission Appeals Code and the School Admissions Regulations due to the Coronavirus restrictions.
The new regulations will extend the existing temporary changes until 30 September 2021 and will include any appeals lodged by that date but not yet heard.
Appealing for a school place
Appellants for an in-year transfer appeal (current change of a school place) have at least 28 calendar days from receipt of the decision to refuse the place to lodge an appeal.
Appellants for an allocation appeal (either Year 7 or Reception to start in September 2021) also have at least 28 calendar days from receipt of the decision to refuse the place to lodge an appeal. Appeal hearings for Year 7 allocation should commence in May/June 2021 and appeal hearings for Reception allocation should commence in June/July 2021.
You will be provided with a minimum of 14 calendar days’ notice of your hearing date.
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, and any questions/responses submitted on behalf of the parties.
The clerk will provide all the parties with sufficient notice of the hearing date, the proposed way of hearing the appeal, and the deadlines by which written submissions, evidence, and/or questions/responses must be provided so that the case papers can be sent out allowing all the parties reasonable time to consider them.
Appeals conducted by telephone or video conference
These will be conducted using Microsoft Teams. Guidance on how to participate using this platform will be made available 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 remote hearing.
The appeal panel will also need to consider any requests for reasonable adjustments to be made in advance of the remote hearing e.g. an interpreter to be available.
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 as soon as practically possible, or if the parties agree the Panel may consider the appeal based on the written information submitted prior to the hearing, provided this does not disadvantage either party.
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’s and appellant’s cases, and any additional evidence submitted by the parties.
The panel and clerk will then hold 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.