Recruitment for panel members for education admission appeals or exclusion independent reviews
We are always looking for volunteers who would like to serve on appeal panels.
Education admission appeals panels consider appeals by parents whose children have been refused admission to their preferred school. Members of the independent panels consider the cases put forward by the parents and the schools and decide whether or not the appeal should be upheld.
Exclusion independent review panels consider appeals by parents or carers, whose children have been permanently excluded from a school. The panel consider the decision of a governing body to uphold a permanent exclusion, and decide whether to uphold their decision to permanently exclude a pupil, recommend that the governing body reconsider its decision or direct the governing body to reconsider its decision.
The panels are made up of education experts (people who have had experience in education, understand the educational conditions in Newcastle, are a parent of a child at a school, but are not an employee of Newcastle City Council except teachers) and lay people, (who have no experience of managing or providing education in a school, but may have been a governor or acted in another voluntary capacity, and have no connections with the school or council or any person employed by it).
The work is not paid but expenses for travel will be reimbursed. Appeals take place during the working day. You are free to accept or refuse any hearing offered to you. Training will be provided, and we generally run a training session in February or March of each year.
Please see below for more information.
Admission appeals panels
The statutory basis for the admission appeals process is the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998. The most recent School Admissions Appeals Code was issued under Section 84 of the Act in February 2012.
An Appeals Panel is made up of at least 3 trained members: a person with experience of education (non-lay), a lay person (without experience of the provision of education) and a trained Chair (who can be either). Non-lay, or education experts are people that are not members of the Authority but who have experience in education, are acquainted with the educational conditions in the area of the Authority or are parents of registered pupils at a school, but not employees of the LEA except teachers. Lay members do not have any personal experience in the management of a school or the provision of education in any school, disregarding any experience such as a Governor or in any other voluntary capacity, and they have not at any time had any connection with the LEA or any person employed by it.
The Panel is supported by an independent Clerk who advises the Panel on points of law and procedure and takes notes during the hearing.
The Appeal Hearing
Immediately before the Hearing the Clerk will ensure that all parties are present and have everything they require. When it is time for an Appeal to be heard, all parties go into the Hearing together: the Clerk, the school or Admissions Authority representative and the appellant.
The Chair of the Appeals Panel introduces everyone and explains the procedure and the Appeals Panel begins. When the Panel has heard both cases, the Admissions Authority representative and appellant will be asked to leave the Hearing for the Panel to make their decision.
The Code sets out 2 decision making processes for admission appeals.
- Key Stage 1 appeals (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2). The Code allows admission of an extra pupil only in exceptional circumstances because the law states that classes should be limited to 30 pupils, per class per teacher. In Key Stage 1 appeals, the Panel will consider whether an error has been made and the child should have been admitted in the first instance or if the circumstances are so exceptional that any reasonable authority would have offered the child a place. (Essentially the Hearing reviews the original decision to refuse a place).
- Key Stage 2 appeals and above. The decision is made in 2 stages. First, the panel must decide whether or not the school followed the admissions procedure and whether admitting an extra child would prejudice the provision of education and efficient use of resources for pupils already attending that class. If not the child is admitted (eg there is space for an extra child in the class). If it is agreed that procedure was followed and that prejudice would occur, the panel goes on to the second stage which weighs up the case of the child and the case of the school and decides which of the two is the stronger.
What is required of a panellist?
Panel members follow a process, extracting and weighing up relevant information from all parties to make a decision. Panel members deal with a variety of people from diverse backgrounds, negotiating situations where appellants may express anxiety or anger. Excellent communication skills and the ability to navigate information and understand legal and policy documents is essential. The ability to reach clear, methodical decisions which may be scrutinised and challenged is integral to the role, and impartiality to both the schools and parents is also necessary, as is confidentiality. In coming to a decision, it is important that the Panel keeps in mind the requirements of the School Admission Appeals Code.
Appeals are timetabled to last about half an hour. During the main Appeals period between March and July, appeals can be heard throughout the day - it is aimed to keep them to about 8 a day if possible. There may, however, be only 1 or 2 appeals on a particular day. A panellist can decide on each occasion whether or not to accept the invitation to serve on a particular panel. Some panellists only want to do one or two appeals a year, others hear them more often. There is no obligation to accept a particular hearing. Lunch and travel expenses are provided. Training is provided.
Why be a panellist?
For some people the work is helpful for their career, providing them with relevant work experience. For others, it is rewarding in itself to give people the chance to state their case. Appellants often become clearer about the options open to them during a hearing and the reasons why a place was not offered at a preferred school.