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Coronavirus - admission appeal arrangements

1 March 2021

Please note: the information contained in this legal update is correct as of the original date of publication

Given the ongoing restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) has published further regulations to amend the operation of admission appeals. In April 2020, the DfE implemented amending regulations and published guidance to change how admission appeals could operate and those regulations are due to expire on 31 January 2021. The new regulations extend the life of the 2020 regulations until the end of September 2021. The guidance originally issued by the DfE in April 2020 was updated on 1 February 2021 and sets out how admission appeals can operate during the period in which social distancing is required.

The guidance works on the basis that face-to-face appeal hearings will not be possible for the foreseeable future, given the current government restrictions. In place of physical hearings, admission appeal hearings should be held by either video or phone and, where that is not possible or will not allow participants to engage fully in the process, an appeal may be determined on written submissions. It remains a decision for the appeal panel to take on the format of appeals, with support from the clerk and taking into account the needs of the appellants. The key questions that the panel must ask when making this decision for each appeal are set out in the guidance.

It is worth remembering that the School Admissions Appeals Code 2012 remains in force and all involved in admission appeals must act in accordance with the Code in relation to decisions taken around admission appeals. The amending guidance makes changes to the Code’s requirements in some specific ways:

  • The admission authority will still need to set a timetable for appeals, but any appeals lodged by parents following national offer day will need to be heard as soon as reasonably practicable rather than within a specified number of school days. The amending guidance provides greater discretion in relation to holding appeals, given the additional requirements placed on those authorities in organising hearings by video or phone or establishing a procedure to deal with appeals in writing, which will extend over a longer timeframe.
  • Any actions to be taken in the run-up to an appeal hearing (sharing information, submitting evidence) or issuing decisions after an appeal hearing must be undertaken within set deadlines expressed in working days, not school days.
  • Whilst a panel must always start an appeal hearing with three members, as per the Appeals Code, where a panel member is unable to continue to hear the appeal for a reason related to Covid-19, the panel may continue with two panel members.

Our webinar recorded in April 2020 continues to provide useful guidance on the lawful operation of admission appeals in 2021, especially around the practical concerns of operating appeals by video or phone.

If you require any assistance with managing appeals, please get in touch. We offer a range of support services including virtual clerking services, step-by-step guidance notes and bespoke training sessions.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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