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Review of academy admissions appeals finds evidence of bias and errors

A review of complaints made against independent appeal panels (IAPs) for admissions to academies has found evidence of bias, errors and poor record-keeping.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) said it received 245 complaints about maladministration by IAPs, which are often where parents turn if they feel the local admissions system has let them down, between April and October last year.

Of the 117 complaints investigated and concluded by October, 33 (28 per cent) were upheld or partially upheld, the same percentage as in the previous year.

The EFA said its review found that IAPs made“a number of common mistakes”. Among its findings were;

- evidence of poor record keeping, including instances where the clerks’ records of appeal hearings were incomplete or illegible;

- lack of impartiality by the panel and procedural errors during the hearing;

- errors on paperwork and paperwork not sent to appellants in good time ahead of hearings; failure to accurately record what was said at the hearings, and decision letters being unclear,

- poorly written or containing mistakes.

Complaints to IAPs can take several weeks and sometimes months to resolve, which the EFA said often leaves children and their parents uncertain about their future.

The EFA has warned panels to avoid making such mistakes in future so appellants receive a fair hearing.

It said clerks must be fully trained in admissions law, should properly understand and address each case on its individual merits, must make full records of proceedings, and should provide ‘plain English’ decision letters, making very clear why the appeal has not succeeded.

The EFA is soon launching a new online complaint form and fact sheet for appellants to make the process clearer.

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