Can you volunteer to be on a school appeals panel? - Luton Council

We are looking to recruit new volunteers to become members for our independent school appeals panel.

  • Are you interested in education and would like to get involved?

  • Do you have excellent listening skills?

  • Do you have an open and enquiring mind and the ability to make considered and balanced decisions?

  • Would you like to take part in an enjoyable and challenging role that really does contribute to the local community?

  • Would you like to become involved in an important, impartial service provided to parents and schools?


If you have answered yes to the above, why not apply to become a volunteer independent school appeals panel member​?
 
To find out more about how to become a panel member please read the FAQs below or send an email to admissionsappeals@luton.gov.uk​
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What is an independent appeal panel?

Section 94 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 makes provision for the establishment of independent appeal panels, so that a parent can appeal against a decision not to admit a child to their preferred school.

The school admission appeal code (the code) has been issued under this act. The code sets out the requirements and guidelines for Independent Appeal Panels. All panel members will receive training and a copy of this code.

What is the role of an appeal panel?

At key times, a parent or a person with parental responsibility may make an application for a school place. School places are allocated according to strict admissions criteria and it is not always possible for an admissions authority to offer a child a place at their preferred school.

All parents or carers with parental responsibility have the right to make an appeal to an independent appeal panel if their child is not offered a place at their preferred school.

The role of the panel is to decide whether a child who has been refused a place by an admission authority, should be given a place.

The appeal panel is independent of the local authority and its decisions are binding, unless overturned by the courts.

Appeal panels perform a judicial function and need to be transparent, accessible, independent and impartial, and operate according to the principles of natural justice.

Although panels act independently of the local authority they must consider very carefully any legal or procedural advice given by the clerk.

What types of appeals are there?

There are generally two types of appeals against an admission authority’s decision to refuse a place. A different decision-making process applies to each:

  1. the admissions authority has determined that the published admissions number (number of pupils that the admission authority has agreed can be admitted to the school each year) has been reached and to admit another child would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources at the school
  2. the admissions authority has determined that to admit another child to a reception, year 1 or year 2 class would breach the statutory limit of 30 pupils in a class with a single qualified teacher. This is known as an ‘infant class size’ appeal

Who can be on the panel?

An independent appeal panel is comprised of a chair and at least two other panel members, from the following categories:

  • lay members
  • people that have not worked in any school in any paid capacity
  • experienced members

A lay member can also be someone that is, or has been, a school governor or have worked, or continues to work, in a school as a volunteer.

We would welcome applications from people without personal experience in the management or provision of education in any school.

Experienced members are those who:

  • have experience in education
  • are acquainted with educational conditions
  • are parents of registered pupils at school

We would welcome applications from people who are:

  • school governors
  • head teachers or former head teachers
  • deputy or former deputy head teachers
  • teachers or former teachers
  • support staff or former support staff
  • parents with children at school

Please note this list is not exhaustive and anyone that feels they may be in this category can apply.

Each independent appeal panel must consist of at least one from each category.

The admission authority also has to appoint a clerk to the appeal panel who is independent of the school and the education functions of the local authority. The clerk has to ensure the panel is properly constituted.

The clerk must also have knowledge of all the relevant laws and codes, and be able to offer advice to enable the panel to undertake its judicial function.

Are there any prohibitions on panel members?

Unfortunately, you are disqualified from being an independent appeal panel member if:

  • you are an elected member of Luton Council
  • you have failed to attend the training required by the local authority

It is essential to ensure that panel members are independent and retain their independence for the duration of service, so panel members must have no links to the school in question.

The following people may be able to sit on appeal hearings generally, but will be excluded from hearing appeals for a particular school to which they may be connected, as follows:

  • a member or former member of the governing body of the school in question
  • an employee of Luton Council or the governing body of the school in question, other than as a teacher or teaching assistant
  • any person who has, or at any time has had, any connection with the authority, school or any person that might reasonably be taken to raise doubts about that person’s ability to act impartially

Do I need any specific qualifications?

No. There are no specific qualifications required to become a panel member. We welcome applicants from any background and with a diverse range of knowledge and experience.

To assist you in formulating balanced and reasoned decisions, it is desirable that you have the ability to:

  • put nervous parents at ease
  • listen to information carefully
  • assimilate complex information and to question in a structured manner
  • raise questions on information provided to the Panel both in written form and orally
  • remain calm and be fair at all times
  • be independent and impartial
  • work with other panel members
  • take advice
  • consider evidence and to understand and apply legislation
  • make reasoned, balanced and objective decisions to ensure a fair appeal hearing
  • look beyond individual personal circumstances to form a just conclusion

Would I receive training?

Full training will be provided prior to taking part in an appeal hearing. The next training date is scheduled for 25 February 2020.

If you wish to be considered for training on this date, please return your completed application form by 10 February 2020. Interviews will be held in the week commencing 17 February 2020.

Please note: you won't be able to sit on a panel without full training.

After the initial training, panel members will receive refresher training at regular intervals (currently every two years) to ensure everyone is kept up to date with changes to admissions law and the codes.

When will appeal hearings take place?

Appeals can only be heard during school term time and will take place during the working day (no evenings or weekends).

Panel members are usually requested to attend in preparation of the hearings at 9.30am. Appeals are often arranged so that there would be a half day or full day of appeals listed. A full day usually concludes around 3.30 to 4pm.

Peak periods for appeals tend to be during the early summer months (May to July), once parents are given an offer of a school place for infant, junior, primary or secondary schools. During this peak period appeals may be listed for several consecutive days.

How much time would I need to give?

We appreciate the availability of panel members may vary and be dependant on work or other commitments. There is no minimum number of days you have to sit. You can choose to serve as a panel member as few or many times as you like throughout the year.

Please notify us of your availability when submitting your application, and whether you would be able to sit on appeals for consecutive days.

We keep a database of panel members and will contact you when organising an appeal to check your availability.

Where will appeal hearings take place?

Appeal hearings usually take place at the Leagrave Centre, the address of which is:

The Leagrave Centre
Strangers Way
Luton
LU4 9ND

Notification will be provided should appeals need to take place at an alternative venue.

Is the building accessible for disabled people?

Yes, the venue is fully accessible. Please advise us of any requirements.

Will I get paid for serving on the panel?

The role of a panel member is voluntary.

Panel members are eligible to receive out of pocket expenses such as travel and childcare.

Refreshments, including lunch, will be provided for panel members throughout the day. Please ensure you advise us of any dietary needs. Free car parking is available at the usual venue.

How do I apply?

We are currently recruiting for new panel members. If you would like to be considered as an independent appeal panel member, please complete the application form and return to the email address detailed below. The application form can be located at the foot of this page under the heading ‘Downloads’.

Email: admissionsappeals@luton.gov.uk
Telephone: 01582 548039

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