New admissions code

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The Department for Education has published and put out for consultation a proposed new School Admissions Code to make the school admissions process simpler, fairer and more transparent for all parents.

The proposed changes would see two new codes created. Together the two slimmed-down documents will contain around half as many requirements.

 The proposals would: 

  • increase the number of good school places available by making it easier for popular schools to take more pupils
  • improve the current in-year applications scheme so fewer children face delays in finding a new school. (In-year applications happen when a child moves to a new area during the academic year)
  • give priority to children of school staff when a school is over-subscribed, if the school wishes, making it easier for schools to recruit teachers and other staff
  • strengthen the military covenant by allowing children of armed forces personnel to be admitted to infant classes even if it takes the class over the 30-pupil limit
  • allow twins and other multiple-birth children to be admitted to infant classes even if it takes the class over the 30-child limit
  • ban local authorities from using area-wide “lotteriesreduce bureaucracy by requiring admissions authorities to consult on admissions arrangements every seven years (rather than every three years) if no changes are proposed. (They would still need to consult when they wanted to change their admissions arrangements).

The consultation also asks whether Academies and Free Schools should be able to prioritise children receiving the pupil premium, as announced in the Schools White Paper last year.

 A raft of unnecessary prescription will also be removed from the draft Appeals Code to make the process cheaper and less burdensome. The consultation suggests: 

  • Parents will have at least 30 days to lodge an appeal against primary or secondary school decisions. The current 10-day limit forces parents to appeal quickly. In the last school year for which figures are available (2008/09), more than a quarter of all appeals lodged (24,550 out of 88,270) were not taken forward, wasting time and money.
  • The rule that currently bans appeals from being heard on school premises will be overturned. At the moment admissions authorities have to make costly, taxpayer-funded bookings of hotels or conference rooms.
  • The regulation for admission authorities to advertise for lay appeal members every three years will be cut.The new admissions process will be more open than before. Currently only a very restricted list of people can object to admissions arrangements they believe are unfair. In future anyone will be able to object. The draft code is also clear that local authorities will retain the power to refer any admissions arrangements they believe are not complying with the code to the Schools Adjudicator.

Education Secretary Michael Gove MP said: "The school system has rationed good schools. Some families can go private or move house. Many families cannot afford to do either. The system must change. Schools should be run by teachers who know the children’s names and they should be more accountable to parents, not politicians. Good schools should be able to grow and we need more of them.
 
"The Admissions Code has been bureaucratic and unfair. You shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to navigate the school system. We are trying to simplify it and make it fairer. We want to cut the red tape that has stopped good schools expanding. We want to make various specific changes to help servicemen and teachers. Together with our other reforms, these changes will help give all children the chance of world-class schools."

Commenting on the document, Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said, "Successive annual reports of the Chief Schools’ Adjudicator have shown particular problems with faith schools that control their own pupil admission policy breaking the existing School Admissions Code.

"Although not unexpected, it is therefore with great regret that the Government has issued a revised Code that fails to offer better guidance to faith schools on their admissions arrangements to help better tackle these ongoing abuses of pupil admissions law. It is not too late for the Government to strengthen the Code in this regard, but so far they have missed this opportunity."

School Leadership Today
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