The NAHT website documents reflect the DfE guidelines, which the department provided for the discharge of functions of all admission authorities of maintained schools in England. Academies (free schools, studio schools and technical colleges) are required to comply with the code and the law relating to admissions by their funding agreements. This may mean that some of the older established Academies are not bound in the same way as those newer Academies established during / after 2010 - the funding agreement is therefore ‘key’ to compliance requirements.
School Admissions Code DfE: 1 February 2012 and the School Admissions Appeal Code DfE: 1 February 2012.The Codes impose mandatory requirements where the words: ‘must or must not’ are used. These shorter Codes, according to the Department, are designed to give clear guidance on admission arrangements and give admission authorities the freedom to run their appeals process efficiently, whilst maintaining minimum requirements to ensure fairness and transparency.
The legislative framework: The Admissions Code and Admission Appeals Code 2012and relevant legislation: The Codes are issued - under Section 84 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, the School Admissions (Admission Arrangements and Co-ordination of Admission Arrangements (England) Regulations 2012, the School Admissions (Appeal Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012, the School Admissions (Infant Class Sizes) (England) Regulations 2012, the Education (Admission Appeals Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012, the Human Resources Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.
The School Admissions Code
Detailed information is provided on the NAHT website covering the areas – as defined in the DFE 2012 Codes:
- The statutory basis of the Code
- Practice to ensure compliance with the Admission Code
- The principles in relation to practices and criteria
- The process for developing admission arrangements including timelines
- The responsibility for determining admission arrangements in relation to local authorities and those schools which are their own admission authorities
- Defining and deciding on the most suitable oversubscription criteria
- The process of consultation, determination and publication
- Applications and Offers
- Infant class size admissions – ‘excepted’ children
- Admission of children below compulsory school age and deferred entry
- Admission of children outside their normal age group
- Children of UK service personnel
- Children from overseas
- Offering a place
- Right to appeal
- School closure.
Significant Changes to The Admissions Code
Some of the new freedoms and responsibilities are listed below:
Admission Appeals Code 2012
Detailed information is provided on the NAHT website covering:
- Constitution of Appeal Panels
- Appeal Hearings
- Reaching Decisions on Appeals
- Infant Class Size Appeals
- Complaints about Appeals
Independent Appeal Panels
Appeal panels perform a judicial function.
Members of appeal panels must be trained and independent of the school / local authority.
Where a panel starts with three members and one has to temporarily withdraw (e.g. because of illness), the panel must postpone the remaining hearings until the third panel member returns. If unable to return a replacement must be appointed. Any appeals which have been part heard before the withdrawal of the panel member must be reheard.
Panel members must be indemnified against any legal costs and expenses whilst acting as members of an appeal panel.
Local authorities must allocate reasonable funds to cover training and expenses incurred by panel members (Academies receive funding to cover such costs in accordance with their funding agreements).
Admission authorities must set a timetable for organising and hearing appeals and publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February each year
Admission authorities must notify parents of their right to appeal and provide information on the process and procedure that will be followed.
Admission authorities must ensure that appeals are lodged by the appropriate deadlines and that they are heard within the specified timescales (must be heard within 40 days of deadline for lodging appeals where possible).
Any appeals submitted after the appropriate deadline must still be heard in accordance with whatever timescale is set out in the timetable published by the admission authority.
The panel must be formed no later than 10 school days before the hearing. Appellants must be provided with written notification of the date and arrangements for the appeal process.
Admission authorities must ask appellants whether they intend to call witnesses or to be represented at the hearing.
Admission authorities must also provide all documents needed to conduct the hearing. This must include details of how the admission arrangements and the co-ordinated admissions scheme apply to the appellant’s application, the reasons for the decision to refuse admission and an explanation as to how admission of an additional child would cause prejudice to the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources.
Admission authorities must take all reasonable steps to ensure the venue is appropriate and accessible to appellants
Admission authorities must ensure that appeal hearings are held in private and are conducted in the presence of all panel members and parties. One party must not be left alone with the panel in the absence of the other.
Guiding Principles for appeal panels
Appeal panels must operate according to the principles of natural justice. Those most directly relevant are:
- panel members must not have a vested interest in the outcome, or any prior involvement
- each side must be given the opportunity to state their case
- written material and evidence must have been seen by all parties
Reaching a decision
The panel retires to reach its decision: to uphold or dismiss. The panel’s decision is binding s.94 (6) School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
Notification of the decision
The panel’s decision must be communicated in writing no later 5 days after hearing.
Notes and records of proceedings
Records must be kept by an admission authority for a minimum period of two years. Most appeal hearings are exempt from disclosure from the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Data Protection Act 1998.
Reaching Decisions on Appeals
The panel must follow the two stage decision making process for all appeals
The first stage – examining the decision to refuse admission
The panel must uphold the decision at the first stage where
- it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or had not been correctly and impartially applied and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied; or
- it finds that the admission of additional children would not prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient resources.
However, in multiple appeals where a number of children would have been offered a place, and to admit that number would seriously prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources, the panel must proceed to the second stage.
The panel must proceed to the second stage where:
- it finds that the admission arrangements did comply with admissions law and that they were correctly and impartially applied to the child; or
- it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or were not correctly and impartially applied but that, if they had complied and had been correctly and impartially applied, the child would not have been offered a place; and it finds that the admission of additional children would prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources.
The panel must proceed to the second stage
The panel must balance 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
More information on multiple appeals, appeals for grammar schools, appeals for admission to sixth forms and boarding schools are provided in the NAHT Website document.
Children with disabilities
In considering whether a child was refused admission because of their disability, panels must have regard to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Code of Practice. http:www.equalityhumanrights.com
Children with statements of special educational needs
Appeals by the parent of a child with a statement of Special Educational Needs against the choice of school named in the statement, or the fact that no school has been named, are considered by the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) not a school admission panel.
Expressing a Preference and Fair Access Protocols
The allocation of a place in accordance with a Fair Access Protocol does not override a parent’s right to appeal against refusal of a place at any school for which they have applied.
Infant Class Size Appeals
The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 limit the size of an infant class (where the majority of children reach the age of 5, 6, or 7 during the school year) to 30 pupils per school teacher. Only in very exceptional circumstances can admission over the limit be permitted. See NAHT detailed information.
Consideration of ‘reasonableness’
The threshold for finding that an admission authority’s decision to refuse admission was not one that a reasonable authority would have made is high. The panel will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the child was ‘perverse in the light of the admission arrangements’ i.e. it was ‘beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker’ or ‘a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it.
Appellants do not have the right to a second appeal in respect of the same school for the same academic year, unless exceptional circumstances apply (despite significant and material change of circumstances e.g. of parent, child or school, the child is still refused admission).
Complaints about appeals
Appellants may complain about maladministration on the part of an appeal panel to the Local Government Ombudsman relevant to maintained schools.
Appellants may complain to the Secretary of State if the complaint is relevant to Academies. Or the appellant can apply for a judicial review of the decision.