Flexibilities in the way school admission appeals are handled have been extended until the end of September.
The school admission appeals code was amended last April by emergency legislation to give admission authorities, local authorities and appeal panels “some additional flexibility when dealing with appeals” during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The temporary changes were due to expire at the end of this month, but have now been extended following the decision to partially close schools again.
The amendments to the code state that face-to-face appeal hearings against refusals of school places “should not take place until the government guidelines on social distancing indicate it is safe to do so”.
Instead, hearings should be conducted by telephone or video conference, but where that’s not possible, appeals conditioned “entirely on the basis of written submissions are acceptable”.
Appeals should be determined “as soon as is reasonably practicable” and in accordance with deadlines set by temporary regulations, and admissions authorities are “urged to determine appeals lodged as part of the main admissions round before the start of the September term, wherever possible”.
The changes also mean that where an appeals panel member needs to withdraw part-way through an appeals process and it is not “reasonably practicable” for the panel to be reconstituted because of Covid-19, a panel made up of at least two members may continue.
Academies are their own admissions authorities, while local authorities serve as the admissions authority for community schools. These authorities “will need to review any arrangements they have already put in place to ensure they comply with the temporary regulations”.
They should also “clearly set out for all parties” how the appeals process will be carried out, including how appeals will be conducted and the expected timescales for each part of the process.
The new regulations will come into force on January 31, subject to parliamentary procedure.