Headlines: September 11th, 2006



The Secretary of State for Education has launched a consultation process on the new School Admissions Code and has said no child should be put at a disadvantage by unfair admissions practices and criteria. Alan Johnson said every parent should know the basis on which their child would be admitted to a particular school.

He accepted that individual schools had to have flexibility to set admission arrangements according to their own needs but those arrangements needed to fair, clear and easy for parents to understand. “These are the principles that underpin the new admissions code. We have toughened up the rules governing admissions so that every school and local authority knows what they can or cannot do when determining school intake,” he said.

Under the draft code, schools and local authorities would determine their admissions policies but would do so within a framework that rules out practices that might restrict the access of some children. The consultation says examples of unfair practice include taking account of a parent’s financial status, occupation or educational or social background; taking into account parents’ ability to support the school, financially or otherwise and giving weight to former family connections with a school. The proposals would also stop authorities imposing conditions on the type of schools that parents must list in applications and giving priority to parents who make a particular school their first preference as this, the Government says, restricts choice and forces parents into playing an admissions game to secure a school place for their children.

The proposals which have now gone out for formal consultation were initially produced in a draft skeleton code in April. Mr. Johnson said the planned changes would strengthen the ability of parents and admission forums to object to unfair arrangements and would ensure that decisions overturning unfair practices were binding for three years, rather than the current one year.

Alan Johnson added, “The vast majority of schools operate fair and transparent admissions policies and for most schools the new code will not mean any changes to their existing arrangements. However, a minority of schools have used unfair criteria to influence their intake. I am determined to end this unfairness and it is right that we take steps to ensure that no child is disadvantaged compared to another.”