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News - 6 March 2013

School admissions appeals may not be fair, says watchdog

Parents whose children fail to get into academies or faith schools in England may not get a fair right of appeal, claims an official legal watchdog.

Some appeals for schools outside local authority control lack independence and transparency, argues the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council (AJTC).

The rules allow these schools to run their own appeals, says the watchdog. A government spokesman said a new Fair Admissions Code included clear rules on admission appeal arrangements.

The AJTC says the current system for academies and faith schools is confusing and appears to lack independence. It is particularly concerned that the growing number of academies could mean that increasing numbers of families will be left without an effective appeal system.

AJTC chairman Richard Thomas in a letter to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove calls for "the secretary of state to identify an organisation that is well placed to provide an independent appeals service".

Peter Ham Auditor and Head of Schools and Charities at ABDS comments:
“In January, a report by the Academies Commission found that the current system was unnecessarily complex and that a proliferation of schools handling their own admissions was a threat to social mixing and equality of access to good schools.”

Mr Thomas suggests that the most obvious solution would be for local authority appeal panels, which currently hear appeals for the schools they still run, to handle those for all state schools in their area, including academies and faith schools.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "All admissions authorities, be they local councils or self-governing schools including academies - must comply with our new fair Admissions Code which includes clear rules on admission appeal arrangements.

Councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said:
"Local authorities go to great lengths to ensure their appeals panels are made up of independent and trained experts who hear appeals for all locally maintained schools. It is only right that all schools should be subject to the same rigorous process to ensure every child has fair access to a good education."

If you need any help and advice with Free School or Academy Schools, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
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