Education Appeal Committees ( EACs) hear appeals from parents (and young people in certain circumstances) against a local authority's decision to refuse a placing request, or to exclude a pupil from school. Local authorities establish EACs, but they are independent bodies with members drawn from a pool that includes parents, those with knowledge of education, councillors, and others. In 2004/05 EACs heard almost 400 appeals. Of cases where EACs had made a decision when statistics were collected, 22% were successful.
A report in 2000 by the Scottish Council of the Committee of Tribunals, who oversee all tribunals in Scotland, found that the current processes around EACs were often "seriously unsatisfactory". The Committee's key recommendation was that all those involved with EACs should be properly trained.
In 2004 the Scottish Executive funded George Street Research to conduct research with parents who had appealed to Education Appeal Committees across a range of authority areas (such as urban and rural areas). This research found that parents who had been through the process found it a "bleak and dispiriting experience" and saw the system as biased against them. The report made a number of recommendations aimed at reducing the formality in the system and making it more parent and child friendly.
We want to have in place a system for hearing appeals against placing request and exclusion decisions that is fair, impartial, and transparent, and seen to be so by all those who use it. We are still in the process of deciding what will be the best way of achieving this aim, and the purpose of this consultation is to give you the opportunity to contribute your views and suggestions. We are interested in all comments and ideas relating to the current appeal system.
Our main proposals for improving the current system are:
- issuing guidance for local authorities on arrangements surrounding Education Appeal Committees;
- producing national training materials for training those who sit on Education Appeal Committee panels. We would recommend through guidance to local authorities that panel members had to be trained with this material before being allowed to hear an appeal;
- producing an information leaflet on Education Appeal Committees for parents and young people, to be distributed by authorities and published on the Scottish Executive website.
Please contribute your views by responding to the questions at page 16 by 16 February 2007.