Christina Robotham and Sue Charles

Volunteers needed for school admissions appeal panels

Staffordshire County Council is on the lookout for new volunteers to sit on their school admission appeal panels.

School admission appeals panels make legally binding decisions when parents feel that their school place offer is unsuitable.

With more than 400 schools, the county council hears hundreds of admissions appeals annually and rely completely on independent appeal panel members.

Volunteers do not even need to have a school background to be on the panel—they will get full training, and will need to be able to listen to both sides of a case and form a reasoned view.

There is no restriction on who can apply, as panels are representative of the community.

Christina Robotham from Lichfield is a retired teacher, and has been a school admissions appeal volunteer for 15 years. She said: “As a retired teacher, I wanted to do something that would keep my brain active, and actually help people. Being on the panel allows me to engage with a diverse group of people, and make new friends along the way. This role is about fairness, and taking everyone’s views into account whist applying guidance. Anyone who volunteers will have training and help along the way, and I’d encourage anyone who is a good listener, and has an open mind, to apply.”

Sue Charles, also from Lichfield, used to work in a pharmacy for the NHS. She said: “This is completely different to anything I’ve ever been involved in. I think this is a very necessary role – I see people from all walks of life and the challenges they face, and it’s important that we can scrutinise decisions. I would say that anyone with an interest in education who is a team player should apply – it’s really rewarding.”

Staffordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Education Jonathan Price said: “Although we allocate places using our admission criteria, there are always cases where a parent feels their school place offer is unsuitable. Volunteers on our school admissions appeal panel play a vital role in ensuring that appeals are heard fairly, and both sides of a case are listened to before making a reasoned decision.

“We are always on the lookout for new volunteers, whether they have experience in education or not. All we ask for is an open mind and a willingness to learn, and I would urge anyone interested to email our school admissions appeals team to find out more.”

To find out more, contact the admissions appeal team at schooladmissionappeals@staffordshire.gov.uk.

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