Sheffield City Council is looking for volunteers to be on Independent School Admissions Appeal Panels. This is classed by the Council as a critical service at the moment and is a very worthwhile volunteering opportunity.
Independent School Admissions Appeal Panels
The Council, as the Schools’ Admissions Authority, is responsible for co-ordinating all pupil admissions to state schools in the city (both local authority maintained schools and academies and free schools). Parents have the right to express a preference for 3 schools at the normal point of entry (reception/foundation stage; Year 3 (for junior schools) and Year 7 for secondary schools. Places are allocated in March for the following September. Parents who don’t get their first preference have the right to request an appeal against that decision which is heard by an Independent School Admissions Appeal Panel, administered by Democratic Services with support from legal.
Usually the Panels sit in the Town Hall and hold face to face appeal hearings with LA admissions team representatives, schools representatives and parents. This year the Department for Education has issued temporary revised regulations and guidance and hearings will be held remotely using Zoom.
Anyone who is interested in public law or court work, as in many ways the hearings are like certain Tribunals such as the SEND Tribunals, will find these hearings fascinating. They are quasi-judicial panels and therefore have to make decisions which are compliant with the principles which apply to public law decisions – fair, rational, reasonable, proportionate, and the hearings themselves need to take into account the requirement for any reasonable adjustments to allow the participants a fair and transparent hearing.
Full training will be provided, both on the application of the law and taking part remotely. Volunteers do not have to be in Sheffield, as long as they have access to reliable broadband, a laptop or tablet with a camera and microphone and a telephone. You will also need a quiet room where you are not disturbed, as the meetings are confidential. The Council is looking at providing expenses to the volunteers. They will timetable according to volunteer availability and the volunteers can sit for as many or as few days as they like, but the Council would like volunteers to be able to commit to at least 5 days. New volunteers would sit with experienced Chairs and a Clerk who provides the advice on the law and procedure.
The training programme for new volunteers will be towards the end of May, beginning of June. Appeals Panels will then be scheduled probably starting mid-June with the secondary schools first, followed by the primary schools.
Potential volunteers may find it helpful to have a look at the Department for Education webpage on school admission appeals:
Apply for this role
If you are interested or have further question about this volunteering role, please contact Sarah Cottam, Democratic Services Team Manager via the generic inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone: 0114 2734015 or her email address: email@example.com.