The Department for Education has issued updated guidance on school admissions appeals during the coronavirus outbreak, as well as provided answers to frequently asked questions.
The DfE acknowledged that the outbreak would impact on the ability of admission authorities to carry out admission appeals in the usual way.
“This is because appeal panels must be held in person, which would break the current restriction on gatherings of more than two people. There may also be problems securing sufficient independent panel members and partial school openings and closures may impact on meeting certain appeal deadlines,” it said.
The Department insisted that parents must continue to have the right to appeal to any school which has refused their child a place.
It said that it would, therefore, be making regulatory changes that, subject to legislation, will come into force on 24 April 2020.
The new regulations will relax some of the current requirements set out in the School Admission Appeals Code 2012 and enable admission authorities to proceed with their admission appeals, the DfE said.
It added: “Our aim is to give admission authorities as much flexibility as possible to manage appeals in a way that best suits local circumstances, while also ensuring families appealing an admission decision this year are supported and are not disadvantaged by the measures in place to protect public health.”
The new regulations, which will be in force until 31 January 2021, will:
- disapply the requirement that appeals panels must be held in person and instead give flexibility for panel hearings to take place either in person, by telephone, video conference or through a paper-based appeal where all parties can make representations in writing;
- relax the rules with regard to what happens if one of the three panel members withdraws (temporarily or permanently) to make it permissible for the panel to continue with and conclude the appeal as a panel of two;
- amend the deadlines relating to appeals for the time that the new regulations are in force.
“For example, we will require admission authorities to review their existing deadlines for appeals to be submitted and set new or revised deadlines for appeals to be submitted in certain circumstances,” the DfE said.
It insisted that any new or revised deadlines must be reasonable and at least 28 days from the date a notification of refusal of a school place was received by the appellant.
The DfE confirmed that it would not be removing any of the clerking duties for admission appeals. “Clerks carry out a key role in relation to appeal hearings and provide advice on admissions law as well as keeping an accurate record of proceedings,” it said.
The Department is to publish guidance to support admission authorities and local authorities in carrying out admission appeals over the coming months to provide further details on these regulations.
The Q&A covers:
- When will the new regulations come into force and when will they expire?
- Why not postpone admission appeals until the autumn term or cancel all appeals?
- How will the new flexibilities maintain fairness for the appeals process?
- Who will decide whether appeals will be heard in person, by telephone, video conference or on paper?
- Which appeal deadlines will be subject to change?
- Will these changes apply to all admission appeals?
- Will parents still be able to lodge a maladministration complaint if they are unhappy with the way their appeal has been administered?
The updated guidance can be viewed here.