Making an appeal for a school place part 4

There should be no difference at Appeal stage with Academies

Academies are required to follow the same legislation and statutory guidance as any other school, unless their funding agreement with the DfE allows them to depart from it. (This would be highly unusual.)

This means that the appeal process shouldn’t be any different for academies. 

If you’re concerned, perhaps because of horror stories you’ve heard about how academies in your area conduct their Appeals, and then these are the points to ask your Clerk – preferably well before the day of the hearing:

How independent are the panel members? (e.g. they should not be friends or neighbours of school governors)      

I applied to become a panel member after I saw a vacancy advertised in a local newspaper. After some years I persuaded my partner to consider becoming one and he put himself forward directly. Neither of us has any direct connection to the County Council nor to any school – and if either of us happens to know someone who works at a school, or who has grandchildren attending a school, or we live near a school, we give a list to Democratic Services and are never invited to appeals for those schools. Academies should be doing the same thing. 

How much training do panel members receive? 

It is a requirement that nobody can sit on a panel without having first been trained. And we must have refresher training at least every two years, otherwise we’re not allowed to be a panel member again till we do.  In practice, in my county, we have refresher training annually.     

I have heard of instances where an academy’s panel had received no training but had, instead, been given a tour of the school. This isn’t acceptable.

What training has the clerk had?

Clerks must have specialist training to do their job, otherwise they will not be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to ensure that appeals are correctly conducted.  It’s not good enough to hire in a solicitor and expect he or she to know what is supposed to happen or what can or cannot be allowed. 

Did the academy tell you about your right to appeal?

It has been known for schools not to tell parents they have a right to appeal. If any academy tries to tell you there’s no right to appeal for their sort of school, threaten to refer them to the Department for Education — because they are just plain wrong!

Do the academy’s allocation and appeals processes conform to Department for Education guidance?

The DfE guidance applies to academies just as much as to any other sort of school. And these processes should be included in their Ofsted inspections, so you don’t have to take the academy’s word for it. 

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