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Section 94 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA 1998) confers a right of appeal against school admission decisions: a ‘local authority shall make arrangements for enabling [appeals] against…any decision made by or on behalf of the authority refusing a child admission to a school’. Further provision for appeals is made in the School Admissions (Appeal Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012, SI 2012/9, but the substantial details governing the conduct of appeals are contained in the School Admissions Appeals Code 2012. This is mandatory statutory guidance which all appeal panels must follow.
Parents who exercise their right of appeal under SSFA 1998, s 94 have a right to a hearing. Normally, hearings are face to face before a panel of three members, at a time and place designated by the relevant authority subject to an appeal timetable governed by the School Admissions (Appeal Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012, SI 2012/9. See Practice Note: School admissions for maintained schools—School admission appeals.
Given the various restrictions in place during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government made the School Admissions (England) (Coronavirus) (Appeals Arrangements) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/446. These took effect on 24 April 2020 for appeals lodged on or after that date (or before that date but not concluded on that date) and before 31 January 2021. Unless they are extended, SI 2020/446 will expire on 31 January 2021 such that SI 2012/9 will exclusively apply to appeals lodged after that date.
In summary, SI 2020/446 maintains the right of parents to a hearing of their appeal. However, if for a reason related to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus it is not reasonably practicable to comply with the arrangements for appeals in SI 2012/9, SI 2020/446 permit some adjustments to be made.
First, SI 2020/446 permit appeal panels to comprise only two members. Secondly, subject to certain conditions (eg that the panel considers that the appeal can be heard fairly) SI 2020/446 allow appeal hearings to take place by remote access (ie on an on-line meeting platform). Alternatively, the appeal may be decided on the basis only of the written information which has been provided.
Further provision is made in the amended Schedule to SI 2020/446 for varied timelines for appeals to apply so long as SI 2020/446 are in force. The objective of these provisions is to allow parents, authorities and appeal panels reasonable timelines for admissions appeals during the pandemic.
For further guidance, see Practice Note: School admissions for maintained schools.
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