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Covid-19: Primary School Place Appeals - Changes to Appeal Panels

Today many parents will be finding out if their child has been granted a place at their first choice of primary school, and there will be some left disappointed.

In normal circumstances, this would then begin an appeal process, which would require parents and school representatives to attend a hearing before an independent panel who would ultimately decide whether the child were to receive a school place. With Covid-19 being a real problem that has placed us in a time of social distancing and lock down, these appeal processes will have to change.

Firstly – and perhaps most importantly - any disappointed parents are advised to seek some legal assistance with their application as having a professional to guide you through the process will remove some of the stress. 

Secondly, when it comes to the actual panel appeal, the government have issued guidance on their plans to introduce legislation relaxing the rules around school admission appeals. See here for full details.

Amongst the proposed changes are:

  1. Allowing hearings to go ahead either via telephone or video conference where all parties are able to attend; and
  2. Relaxing the rules with regard to what happens if one of the 3 panel members withdraws to make it possible for the hearing to continue and conclude as a panel of two; and
  3. Amending the deadlines relating to appeals for the time the new regulations are in force (although note that any new deadline has to be reasonable and at least 28 days form the date a notification of refusal of a school place was received by the appellant).

National Schools Commissioner Dominic Herrington has stated that the current circumstances ensure that the normal process for appeals is not a sensible option as the virus continues to spread across the country. It is hoped that the government’s proposed changes will address this issue by allowing on-going admission appeals (both Secondary and Primary) to be heard and concluded before the new school year in September 2020, whilst at the same time balancing the interests of fairness and public safety.

There was some concern around how the offer day would go, as during lockdown schools have been closed and processes have had to continue behind the scenes as best as possible. Local Authorities have allayed any fears, and the majority have managed to proceed with offers as normal. A few have requested additional help and support from government to enable them to continue through the process and at present things seem to be going smoothly.

The government are hoping that the regulations will come into on 24 April 2020 which they feel will give admission authorities plenty of time to deal with appeals before the new school year in September 2020. 

The regulations will be time limited with an expiry date on 31 January 2021 but can be amended so that they end earlier if needed.

In the first instance, if you have been left disappointed with the school your child has been offered, Cartwright King has specialist lawyers dealing with Education law, so the first port of call is to contact us for expert advice on see how we can assist with your appeal. 

If you have any further queries around the above topic or otherwise, call us on 0808 168 5550 or contact the firm here.

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