Headlines: October 10th, 2008

Local authorities are being told they should be more involved with schools over their admission policies. The Children’s Services Network says councils must work more closely with schools to assess the impact of admission arrangements on fair access and to achieve better balanced school intakes across their areas.

The Network is part of the Local Government Information Unit, which is calling on ministers and opposition spokesmen to take a lead in bringing about fairer access to school places and in promoting the idea that improving pupils’ achievement and reducing major differences in outcomes is a priority for all political parties.

The call was made at ‘School Admissions: Securing Fair Access’, an event organised by the CSN. It has pointed out that under the Education and Inspections Act, councils have a duty to promote fair access to education as well as high standards and are responsible for ensuring all children achieve their full educational potential. That includes councils having to produce an annual report for the Schools Adjudicator about the admission arrangements that apply in their in their areas. It also covers details such as the number of children on free schools meals at each school and any matters which affect the fairness of admissions.

CSN policy consultant Martin Rogers said the Network wanted to encourage local authorities and their partners to look more critically at the way admissions arrangements were working and specifically, at what the outcomes were for young people in terms of fair access to provision. “In many areas, there is a significant degree of segregation in school intakes, arising largely from admissions criteria that give priority to siblings of children already at the school and to children who live in close proximity to the school. We hope admission authorities will more actively consider the use of alternatives such as banding or random allocation to improve the position,” he said.