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Education Act 1980 (Appeals Procedure)

Volume 31: debated on Tuesday 9 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the result of the first year of operation of the new appeals procedure under the Education Act 1980; and if he will make a statement.

The new school admission arrangements, of which the appeals procedure is only part, are administered locally. The Department is currently consulting local education authorities about the first year's experience. From the greatly reduced number of complaints, it would seem that parents have welcomed the new arrangements.

Does my right hon. Friend believe it would be helpful to have a detailed report from all local education authorities on their experiences of the working of the new procedure? Does he accept that in rural areas it is genuinely more difficult to give full effect to parental choice?

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is "Yes". Such a survey is now going on. In considering the results I shall certainly take into account my hon. Friend's observations in the second part of his question.

In view of the widespread dissatisfaction with the way that the appeals procedure is being operated in the London borough of Bexley and the fact that many parents feel that they have been unfairly treated, will the Secretary of State at least consult the London borough of Bexley to satisfy himself that the procedures adopted there are fair and that an attempt is being made to operate the Government's intention of improving parental choice?

A general survey is going on. I shall certainly interest myself in Bexley. It must be expected that, when a number of parents prefer a popular school, there must be some limit to the expansion of that school and that some parents will be disappointed.

In relation to the new appeals procedure, will my right hon. Friend ask the Bedfordshire education authority why it is trying to force children out of Dunstable into a school over the border against parental choice and wishes? Should not the education authority pull itself together and reach a sensible settlement with the parents?

I am aware, through my hon. Friend, of the anxieties in the Dunstable area. The local education authority is trying its best to put right any errors that may have occurred earlier. I am watching developments there.