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Coronavirus and additional support for learning

What do the changes mean for my appeal to the education appeal committee?

Every local authority has an education appeal committee that hears certain types of appeals and makes decisions about what should happen. Parents can normally go to the appeal committee if they disagree with a local authority decision to:

– exclude their child from school or nursery

– refuse a placing request for their child to attend a mainstream school or nursery

In this section, we will describe how coronavirus has changed appeals to education appeal committees.

For more information on education appeal committees, see our factsheet on Education appeal committees. However, please be aware that some things like timescales have changed during the coronavirus, as explained here on our coronavirus webpages.

Yes, you can still appeal placing requests and exclusions. The law was updated on 23/04/2020 to now let you submit an appeal by email, so you can submit your appeal from home.

It may take the appeal committee longer than normal to hear your appeal while the local authority focuses on responding to the coronavirus. There may also be changes to how they conduct the appeal, so they can follow health guidance to help protect us from coronavirus.

If you child is not currently able to go to school due to school closures, this is not an exclusion and you are not able to appeal this.

However, if your child was excluded before the school closures you can still appeal this. The school should have followed certain procedures and formally recorded the exclusion. Part of the procedure is to write to you explaining the reason for the exclusion and how you can appeal.

A successful appeal against an exclusion means your child can return to school, once schools re-open to their pupils. The school must also remove the details of a successfully appealed exclusion from your child’s records. This means they cannot disclose information about the exclusion, for example to a future employer.

There is no time limit for appealing an exclusion, but it is best to make an appeal as soon as possible. There is more information in our factsheet on exclusions about when a school can exclude a pupil, and the procedures they should follow when this happens.

If you do appeal an exclusion, it may take the appeal committee longer than normal to deal with your appeal and make their decision.

If a local authority has refused your placing request, it should write to tell you their decision, reasons, and how you can appeal their decision. For most placing requests to mainstream schools or nurseries, you can appeal to the education appeal committee. You cannot appeal a placing request if you have already appealed another placing request in the last 12 months.

You have 28 days from receiving the placing request refusal letter to submit your appeal to the education appeal committee. The committee may still hear your appeal if you miss this deadline, but only if you had a good reason for not being able to submit it on time.

If your appeal is successful, the local authority must send your child to the school or nursery that you asked for in your placing request, once it re-opens.

To find out more about placing requests, see our page on ‘Coronavirus – what do the changes mean for my child’s placing request?’

The format of appeal hearings may change to help everyone follow the current guidance to keep us safe and well during the coronavirus outbreak. For example, the appeal may be done by telephone or video call rather than in person.

If you and the local authority agree, the appeal committee can also decide an appeal without a hearing. They would base their decision on written arguments and evidence that you and the local authority submit (for example, by email).

If a hearing is organised, you may need to wait longer than normal for a date for your appeal.

The committee must let you know within 28 days that they have received your appeal letter (this used to be within 5 working days).

If the committee decide that your appeal is something they can consider, they must tell you the date, time, and place of the hearing as soon as they reasonably can. This used to be within 14 days, but it may now take them longer.

The committee must hold the hearing as soon as they reasonably can within 3 months (this used to be within 28 days). If this is not possible due to reasons beyond their control, they need to hold the hearing as soon as they reasonably can.

Once your appeal has been heard, the committee need to tell you their decision and the reasons for it within 28 days (this used to be within 14 days).

If you have still not had a hearing within 4 months of submitting your appeal, you can treat it as if the appeal committee have refused your appeal (this used to be 2 months). This is often called a ‘deemed refusal’. This means you have the right to take your appeal to the Sheriff Court. If you are considering this option, it may be best to first seek legal advice.

We understand that even before the coronavirus, it is not a quick process to make an appeal to the education appeal committee. Concerns about your child’s education and support may have felt like they have been unresolved for quite some time already. So it will be a worrying time if you now have to wait longer for an appeal. For example, if you are appealing a placing request, you might be worried about not knowing what school your child should attend in time for the schools re-opening.

Although there are no easy answers to the delays caused by the coronavirus, if you are worried about what should happen with your child’s education and support while you’re waiting on a decision from the education appeal committee, you can speak to your local authority. The local authority should stay in contact with you to explain your options while you wait on a decision from the appeal committee.

There may also be other ways to resolve things with the local authority, such as mediation, which may be able to happen more quickly. You can contact our helpline if you would like to discuss your options.

We know some people will be concerned about what these changes mean in practice and how they may affect your child’s education and support. We are trying to find out more information, and we will update our website when we know more.

You can also contact our helpline for further advice.

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