HC Deb 03 December 1998 vol 321 cc246-8W
Mrs. May

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he expects to appoint adjudicators under section 25 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998; and if he will publish the job description for such adjudicators. [62305]

Ms Estelle Morris

We will announce the appointment of adjudicators in the New Year. The posts were advertised in the Summer. Those who expressed an interest were sent a copy of the job description and person specification, which is as follows.School organisation and admissions adjudicators The job The School Standards and Framework Bill, currently before Parliament, provides for decisions on changes to school organisation (opening, closing, enlarging and changing the character of schools) to be taken at local level by a School Organisation Committee, established by, but independent of the local authority. The Bill also provides for the Secretary of State to appoint adjudicators to consider cases where the School Organisation Committee is unable to reach a decision. The Bill also establishes new arrangements for agreeing school admissions arrangements at local level and provides for complaints about admissions arrangements to be referred to the adjudicator for resolution. The adjudicator will consider and decide cases, usually on paper, taking account of the views both of those proposing change and those objecting to it. There will be guidance from the Secretary of State on issues that adjudicators will wish to take into consideration. In the case of admissions there will be a statutory Code of Practice. Adjudicators will be empowered to hold a local public inquiry into any case and will be required to do so if any proposals are made by the Secretary of State. Further background information is contained in the attached documents. The Secretary of State proposes to appoint about 20 adjudicators initially, for two or three years. Adjudicators will be allocated cases on the basis of their availability—and where appropriate on the basis of geographical location. We expect that adjudicators will work from home. Adjudicators will be paid £270 per day plus expenses for any day on which they are required to consider cases. The Secretary of State will provide other facilities as necessary and administrative support, which will be located in Darlington. It is difficult to assess loading at this stage, but an adjudicator might be called upon on between 60 and 120 days each year. There are likely to be seasonal pressures, particularly in considering admissions issues, around Easter. The first appointment will be of a lead adjudicator whose role would be to secure effective and efficient adjudication by:

  1. (a) developing procedures and processes through some experience of adjudicating and through discussion with other adjudicators;
  2. (b) seeking efficient use of resources through guidance on practical issues such as conduct of considerations and writing of decisions;
  3. (c) seeking to support the consistent application of procedures through peer review—but not reviewing decisions once made. (The provision for appeal against adjudicators' decisions is judicial review);
  4. (d) convening and chairing training conferences;
  5. (e) undertaking appraisal of adjudicators, which would inform a decision on re-appointments or potentially on the allocation of cases;
  6. (f) advising on recruitment and appointment;
  7. (g) the publication of an annual report;
  8. (h) providing one voice for the adjudication service with whom Ministers could discuss concerns.
But we do not envisage that the lead adjudicator will have a heavier adjudication load than any other adjudicator. The lead adjudicator will also be a part-time appointee, but will be paid £1300 a day, and would be guaranteed work for 125 days per year. Interviews for candidates for appointment as lead adjudicator will be held in September, with a view to the appointee taking up post as soon as possible thereafter. Other interviews for adjudicators will be held in the late Autumn. Person Specification The role of an adjudicator will be a challenging one. It is essential that adjudicators have credibility with both the local and education communities, derived from their experience, independence and impartiality. Adjudicators must be able to keep an objective perspective, weigh competing arguments, and be accepted for their ability to do so. We envisage that successful applicants will have experience of education or education planning at a senior level, for example as a senior education officer; a headteacher or an HMI. For the lead adjudicator, in addition to the above, the successful applicant will have experience of senior management in large organisation, for example as a Chief Education Officer.