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Specialist Education Law Solicitor

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The Appeal Panel - Process and Procedure

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The Appeal Panel

 The School Admission Appeal Code 2012 is very clear about the role, function and make up of an appeal panel.

The panel must have had relevant training and they must be independent of the school.  You must be who the panel will be before the hearing in case any panel member is known to you.  Appeal panel members are all volunteers, and there must be a mixture of people with specialist education experience and lay panel members.

The panel members all take their responsibilities seriously. They are not there to take the part of the school, they are independent. Panel members may ask questions of anyone in the room, but they should not answer on behalf of the school or parent.

The Admission Appeal Code is clear that the panel chair must ensure that everyone is able to put their case and ask questions. The representative of the admission authority is expected to give detailed responses about questions put to him or her about the school organisation.

The panel will often have questions for parents, and though this worries people it is important to understand the panel’s role.  They only know what you tell them and sometimes they need to clarify the situation or need to know a little more about your child or circumstances.  It can put parents on edge,  but the more the panel know about your case,  the greater their understanding about why getting place at this school is so important for your child.

The appeal panel will read through all of the written documentation before the hearing. They need to see that the Admission Authority has allocated places according to a lawful policy. They need to determine if the admission of an additional child is prejudicial to the education of children in the school. They need to weigh up your personal reasons for wanting this school for your daughter or son.

If you are relying on personal circumstances to succeed you need to be aware that the test for the panel is:-

Second stage – balancing the arguments

3.8 The panel must balance the prejudice to the school against the appellant’s case for the child to be admitted to the school. It must take into account the appellant’s reasons for expressing a preference for the school, including what that school can offer the child that the allocated or other schools cannot. If the panel considers that the appellant’s case outweighs the prejudice to the school it must uphold the appeal.

The panel have the assistance of a clerk who takes the minutes and advises the panel on matters of law and procedure.  The clerk is not part of the decision making process but does remain with the panel when they are making their decisions and giving their reasons.

The decision of the appeal panel is binding on the school, academy trust, education department and appellants.  There is no right of appeal by anyone.  If you think the panel has made an error, failed to take information into account or not dealt with the case in a lawful or reasonable way you can make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman for Local Authority Schools or the Education Funding Agency for Academies and Free Schools.  You may also take legal advice about judicial review or in some cases make a complaint directly to the Secretary of State for Education.

All of these routes of complaint are about the process and procedure and not simply because you are unhappy about the final decision.  If your complaint is upheld you may be offered a second appeal. None of these complaint procedures will gain a place for you in a school – only the appeal panel can do that.

Every case is so unique, individual cases need to be discussed to ensure that the right type of support and advice is provided.  An initial free discussion to identify the issues and to consider what is the most appropriate approach is critical to this part of my practice.

By making sure that you are fully prepared and able to emphasise the right elements of your case, your chances of success are maximised.

Please do contact me by telephone to discuss your circumstances and to find a positive way forward.

Call us on 0333 7729763 or 0773 6669961 or email for expert advice