During the past year the Chief Adjudicator was asked to review compliance with the Admission Appeals Code by
admission appeals panels in a small sample of local authority areas. This took place in 13 local authority areas and has resulted in a number of recommendations. Schools running their own appeals again come in for some criticism.
Generally we found that appeals panels organised by local authorities and dioceses were compliant with the Code but a significant number of those organised by foundation schools were not. [my bold print] Summary of the findings and recommendations from the exercise.
Adjudicators found that, in almost all respects, local authority and diocesan appeals panels complied with the School Admissions Appeals Code.
There was some good practice in appeals organised by the 32 individual schools examined, but there was also evidence of widespread and serious departures from the Code. [bold print added]
There were wide variations in practice between organisers in their use of panel members â€“ from one authority where 16 panel members handled 500 appeals per year to another where 45 panel members handled 200 appeals. Many panel members felt they would welcome more support. There was a range of perceptions on the performance of presenting officers and clerks, but it was clear that the staff involved were committed and keen to learn. The standard of accommodation, and the extent to which IT was used in the handling of appeals, were mixed, with some good examples and some where further developments were needed. The average estimated direct costs fell between Â£150 and Â£200 per appeal â€“ considerably cheaper than most other tribunals. The effectiveness of the appeals system varied as did â€“ often significantly - the number of appeals per school and the prospect of parents winning those appeals. Appeals organisers, panel members, clerks and presenting officers have a great deal to learn from each other in how to improve their performance.
The conclusions from the exercise were that:
â€¢ the sample of appeals observed were run by highly competent, committed people who would welcome more support;
â€¢ there are some valuable developments under way in several areas, with good co-operative training programmes, appraisal systems, innovative use of IT and sophisticated methods for surveying the satisfaction of parents and schools;
â€¢ there are opportunities for changes to national regulations that would reduce the number of appeals and the associated stress for parents, in particular, appeals for infant classes:
â€¢ aided and foundation schools should be persuaded to use appeals tribunals run by local authorities, diocese or private companies and should not attempt to negotiate the complexity of running their own tribunals; [bold print added]
â€¢ presentation of national statistics should be reviewed to give a more accurate, accessible picture of the performance of the process;
â€¢ a similar exercise should be conducted next year.