North Yorkshire County Council are being urged to scrap plans to delay secondary school admissions appeals until after the new school year starts in September amidst concerns it will leave dozens of families in limbo and facing months of uncertainty.
Under normal circumstances all school admission appeals are heard within 40 days, and before the end of the summer term, to allow families to plan and prepare for the year ahead. Following the Coronavirus outbreak this timeframe was relaxed.
However, in a Letter Before (legal) Action issued by Education Lawyers at Simpson Millar on behalf of a family who received an appeal hearing date of Mid-September, the Council were accused of failing to do all that was ‘reasonably practicable’.
The letter goes on to acknowledge that while the ability to source appeal panel members is normally limited for geographical reasons – i.e. because the appeals panels will take place in person, and so members of the panel, and the clerks, will be required to attend - that is no longer a constraint.
School admission appeals can currently be heard remotely, by telephone or video, or on a paper basis.
In a Letter of Response, the Council said it is ‘continually looking for ways to accelerate the appeals process’. However, it failed to commit to taking action to bring the 2020 appeals forward to before the end of the Summer.
While the Letter Before Action calls of the Council to accelerate the process for families who are impacted by the delays in the appeals process, it also raises concerns about the challenges that September hearings will cause for the schools themselves.
Education Law Solicitor Dan Rosenberg from Simpson Millar said, “It’s extremely worrying to think that dozens of families from across North Yorkshire are being left in limbo while their secondary school transfer appeals sit gathering dust throughout the summer months.
“While we know that there has been increased pressure on Local Authorities during the Covid crisis, there is no excusing a five month delay in processing these appeals, all of which can be done remotely, in total isolation, and within the strictest of lockdown rules and regulations.
“Children are already dealing with a huge amount, with reception classes starting a whole new chapter of their lives under quite difficult circumstance, and secondary school children making the transition without the same level of support other years have received.
“For those families affected by the failure to hold appeals until after schools have gone back in September, that’s yet more uncertainty.”
The appeal hearing dates for the secondary schools have been published as below:
St Aidans Academy– w/c 21 September 2020.