Non Executive Directorships

Schools Adjudicator

Location: Department for Education

Date Posted: 04/12/2020

Closing Date: 29/01/2021

£355/daily rate

Vacancy Description

Schools Adjudicators are office holders appointed by the Secretary of State for Education to make decisions about a range of matters relating to publicly funded schools in England.  They are statutory office holders appointed under section 25 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

The main function of the Schools Adjudicators is to rule on objections to and referrals about determined school admission arrangements of all state funded schools; this involves establishing whether or not arrangements conform with the requirements relating to admissions and if they do not conform, in what respect they do not conform.

In addition, adjudicators:

  • decide on requests to vary the determined admission arrangements of maintained schools;
  • determine referrals from admission authorities against the intention of the local authority to direct the admission of a particular pupil to a maintained voluntary aided or foundation school;
  • give advice to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) on applications by local authorities to the Secretary of State to direct the admission of a particular pupil to an academy;
  • make decisions about some school organisation proposals for maintained schools, including where there is local disagreement or, in some circumstances, where a local authority wishes to establish a new maintained school; and
  • resolve disputes on the ownership, transfer and disposal of non-playing field land and assets in relation to maintained schools.

 

There are currently ten Schools Adjudicators, including the Chief Schools Adjudicator.  They are appointed for their ability to act impartially, independently and objectively.  Their role is to look afresh at all cases referred to them and consider each case on its merits in the light of the legislation, the Statutory Guidance for Decision Makers on Statutory Proposals and the School Admissions Code.  They evaluate and determine cases taking account of any disagreements at local level and the views of all interested parties.  Schools Adjudicators decide most cases on the basis of the papers before them and responses to their written enquiries. They also hold meetings with interested parties at a school or in its locality if they deem it to be helpful to them as they investigate a case.

Schools Adjudicators are independent of the Department for Education (DfE), and from each other. They work alone in considering a referral to them unless the Chief Schools Adjudicator assigns a particular case or set of cases to two or more Schools Adjudicators, in which case, they will consider the case(s) together. They cannot take cases in local authorities where they have worked in a substantial capacity during the last ten years or where they currently live.  Also, Schools Adjudicators will not act where they have previously worked closely with individuals involved in a case or for any other reason they feel their objectivity might be compromised.  These factors are taken into account when the Chief Schools Adjudicator invites a particular Schools Adjudicator to take a case.

The OSA cannot predict or guarantee a level of work for individual Schools Adjudicators.  The case-load is generated locally and is wholly beyond the control of the OSA.  The work tends to have seasonal pressures, particularly during the summer relating to admissions work.  To secure the effective delivery of the adjudicator service, appointments are subject to a minimum level of availability – Schools Adjudicators must be available for a minimum of 60 days service as a Schools Adjudicator between 1 April and 31 March each year, of which at least 40 days must be between 15 May and 30 September with Schools Adjudicators available for the whole of the second half of the summer term.  Schools Adjudicators can take on other work and may do so but must ensure that their work as an adjudicator has top priority and that any other work does not conflict with or compromise their role as an Adjudicator.  Other work must be cleared with the Chief Adjudicator before accepting an appointment.

Schools Adjudicators are expected to work mainly from home. They are required to use the DfE secure IT system and laptop computers which are provided. Administrative support is provided (by the staff of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator based in Darlington). Schools Adjudicators are expected as a condition of appointment to attend regular meetings (most of which are held virtually but some of which take place in London or Darlington and may involve staying overnight in Darlington).

In keeping with the Commissioner for Public Appointments Code, Schools Adjudicators are subject to appraisal.  The appraisal system consists of peer review of procedures and decisions, plus an individual appraisal by the Chief Schools Adjudicator.

As the position of Schools Adjudicator is a statutory office and does not confer employee status, there is no contract of employment. Schools Adjudicators are, however, bound by terms and conditions laid down by the Secretary of State for Education.  Appointments are usually for a period of 3 years, and are not automatically renewable, though Adjudicators coming to the end of a term are eligible to be considered for a further appointment.

 

Person Specification

The role of a Schools Adjudicator is a challenging and rewarding one.  Their decisions are legally binding. They can be challenged only by judicial review and are expected to be legally and evidentially robust and coherently set out. The decisions adjudicators are called on to make matter to people and can attract local and national media interest. A Schools  Adjudicator needs credibility and to command confidence across the whole education community, derived from experience and knowledge, independence, integrity and impartiality.

Successful applicants will have a range of experience of the publicly funded school system in England at a senior level. Experience must include work with or in individual schools as well as leadership and work beyond single schools. They will command confidence, respect and trust from those they come into contact with professionally. They will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the school system and the laws which govern this. Successful applicants will demonstrate the following:

  • Analytical and decision-making ability: Adjudicators are required to make decisions taking account of competing arguments and within an often complex legal framework. They must be able to keep an objective perspective and be recognised for their impartial approach and judgement.
  • Written communication skills: Successful applicants will show first-hand experience of producing papers which set out difficult/technical issues, competing arguments and the rationale for a final decision/recommendation in clear terms which can be understood by a wide range of interested parties. The ability to write clear, well-argued and robust determinations is of prime importance; the adjudicator has sole responsibility for the production of his or her determinations and must be able to communicate and present their decisions and reasoning compellingly to parents and schools and others in their written determinations which are legally binding documents.
  • Communication skills: As part of their work, adjudicators have to chair both small meetings of parties to cases and large public meetings. Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate experience and ability in building rapport with different audiences and establishing credibility with professionals and the general public alike. They will be able to demonstrate that they can understand and show understanding of concerns while remaining independent and impartial.  Adjudicators are expected to always be able to demonstrate strong inclusion skills in carrying out their role.
  • Ability to manage own work and time: Successful candidates will be able to demonstrate the ability to work effectively alone, deliver to tight timescales, and at the same time contribute to and be part of a wider adjudicator team.

Additional Information

Professional Practice

Adjudicators must always act, and be seen to act, impartially.  This requires that a Schools Adjudicator shall not do anything, or permit any situation to arise, which could give rise to a conflict (or potential conflict) of interest.

Specifically, a Schools Adjudicator must not:

  • use the work undertaken as a Schools Adjudicator for further private benefit, or to generate private work;
  • accept gifts or hospitality from any organisation or individuals which is a party or interested party to an adjudication for which the Schools Adjudicator is responsible;
  • accept bribes, commissions or other financial inducements in relation to any adjudication;
  • bring the Office of the Schools Adjudicator into disrepute.

 

The appointment will be for a period of three years with the first year served as a probationary year.

How to Apply

If you wish to apply, please complete and return the Personal Details form together with the completed task, your current CV and a covering application letter no longer than two sides of A4 paper demonstrating how you meet the each of the four criteria outlined in the person specification together with an account of your relevant experience and knowledge of the school system.  Applicants will be considered first against performance in the task. Those applications which reach the minimum required standard will then be considered against the person specification.

Please return completed documents by 5pm on Friday 29 January 2021 by email to:
osa.team@schoolsadjudicator.gov.uk

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