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Volunteers needed for independent school admission appeals panels


Volunteers are needed to help to decide on appeals by parents and carers for school places.

Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool Councils are looking to recruit people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience to join its independent appeals panels. These panels are set up to consider appeals from parents who have missed out on their preferred school.

When a child is refused a place at a school or academy of their preference, they are entitled to appeal against the decision. Panel members will consider the reasons for the parents’ preference of school, as well as the reasons why a place hasn’t been allocated, and make a decision as to whether the refusal should be upheld or overruled.

Each panel is made up of three people. This includes someone with no paid experience of education, known as a lay member, and also someone with experience such as a teacher, or governor. A trained clerk will advise on legal and administrative issues. Each of the panel members must be independent of the authority, school and the families involved.

Appeals take place throughout the year, but the majority are held between May and August. The appeals are arranged so that they are heard for half a day or a full day depending on the number needing to be decided. There may be occasions when panel members will be required to be available for a full week.

Currently hearings take place by virtual means including telephone and video conference.

County Councillor Jayne Rear, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “Independent appeal panels are very important, and the work is so rewarding.

“You don’t need specialist knowledge or educational expertise. We need people with a good mix of skills and backgrounds who can bring different viewpoints and experience and fresh ideas with them.”

The role would suit people with excellent listening skills, as well as the ability to put people at ease and assess evidence to determine each appeal.

Panel members are appointed for a term of three years. Members can opt to renew their appointment after the first three years.

Some of the skills and experience needed include:

• Good interpersonal and communication skills
• Good literacy and listening skills
• Ability to remain firm and calm
• Integrity
• Fairness
• Ability to get on with other people and to work as part of a team
• Ability to make decisions based upon current legislation and guidance
• Understanding that all information must be kept confidential

The role offers the opportunity to use existing skills, and develop new ones, and people from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible are invited to apply.

Members will have the support of a fully trained and experienced clerk.

No formal qualifications are required but applicants must be:

• Available during the day (Monday to Friday)
• Willing to attend regular panel meetings
• Willing to undertake training

Full training and support will be given to make sure people are equipped to carry out the role successfully.

Expenses are paid to carry out the role, including reasonable travel costs.

To find out more, or to request an application pack, please contact the Appeals Team on 01772 536776 or email appeals@lancashire.gov.uk


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