Flexibilities in the way school admission appeals work will now remain in place until the end of next September, after the government announced a further extension.
The school admission appeals code was amended last April under emergency Covid 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 then extended in January to the end of September 2021, but have now been extended for another year, albeit with slightly different wording.
The Department for Education said the extension would give admissions authority admission authorities “sufficient time to deal with the annual peak in appeals for children due to start new schools at the beginning of September 2022”.
But parents will “continue to have the right to appeal to any school which has refused their child a place”.
The amendments to the code disapply the requirement that appeal hearings against refusal of places must be held in person “where it is not reasonably practicable to follow the normal appeals process due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Instead, there is flexibility for appeals to be heard “either in person, or by telephone, video conference or through a paper-based appeal where all parties can make representations in writing”.
This is a slight change on the previous guidance, which stated that face-to-face hearings “should not take place until the government guidelines on social distancing indicate it is safe to do so”.
The changes also relax the rules covering what happens if one of the three admission appeals panel members withdraws “temporarily or permanently for reasons due to Covid-19”.
Under the changes, it would be “permissible for the panel to continue with and conclude the appeal as a panel of two”.
The DfE has also amended the deadlines relating to appeals, giving “more flexibility for admission authorities to set new or revised deadlines for submitting an appeal”.
However, appellants will be given “at least” 14 calendar days’ written notice of an appeal hearing, and admissions authorities “must set reasonable deadlines relating to the parties submitting evidence”.
Hearings must be held “as soon as reasonably practicable”, and decision letters should be sent within seven calendar days of the hearing, “wherever possible”.