Remote admissions appeals here to stay as DfE seeks to make Covid changes permanent

Hearings would also be allowed to continue with just two panelists if one withdraws

Hearings would also be allowed to continue with just two panelists if one withdraws

Assistive technology admissions

Remote school admissions appeals and panels made up of just two members could be here to stay after the government proposed making some of the changes introduced during Covid a permanent fixture.

The school admission appeals code was amended in April 2020 under emergency Covid legislation to offer more “flexibility” to the appeals process. The changes were then extended twice, first to September 2021 and then again until September 2022.

Now the Department for Education has launched a consultation on making some of the changes permanent.

The government is proposing to continue with flexibility allowing appeal hearings to be held remotely as well as in-person. Admissions authorities will be allowed to decide whether to offer in-person appeals, remote appeals or a choice of either.

During Covid, appeals have been allowed to happen by telephone or video conference, and councils told the DfE that remote hearings had allowed parents to “more easily access the appeals system”.

The consultation also proposes continuing to allow appeals to be determined on written submissions, but only if the presenting officer or appellant cannot attend.

The DfE said the changes would “provide further flexibility around how appeal hearings are held”.

“Many admission authorities” have already made use of the temporary regulations and have “put in place the necessary technology for remote appeals”.

“We expect that the resulting benefits to appeal panels, schools and parents will continue to offset the costs of any necessary technology or time spent on providing any additional support.”

Admissions authorities can appoint new chair

The government is also proposing that appeal panels be allowed to continue with two people if a third member “needs to withdraw and where postponing or reorganising the appeal or appeals would cause unreasonable delay to the determination of the appeal”.

This may result in a panel being made up of two lay people or two people from education backgrounds, rather than at least one from each category, as was previously the norm.

If the panel’s chair withdraws, admissions authorities – councils for maintained schools and academy trusts for academies – would then be allowed to appoint one of the remaining members as the new chair.

The chair would have the casting vote in circumstances where the two panel members disagree.

The consultation closes on April 3.

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