Government consults on new draft School Admissions Codes

June 20th, 2011

On 27th May 2011 the Department for Education launched a consultation on new draft School Admissions and School Admission Appeal Codes. The draft Codes and the consultation document are available at https://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a0077550/new-admissions-code-more-places-in-good-schools-a-fairer-and-simpler-system. The consultation period lasts 12 weeks from the launch date. The draft Codes will then need to be laid before Parliament. They will not affect the next admissions round (for entry in September 2012) but would take effect for the September 2013 intake onwards.

Assuming that it is adopted in more or less the proposed form, then the main changes to the Admissions Code would be to:

• reduce the regulation of schools’ Published Admission Numbers (PAN) by, amongst other things, allowing a school to admit pupils in-year in excess of the PAN without the approval of the local authority.

• improve the current in-year applications scheme so fewer children face delays in finding a new school by placing the administration of in-year admissions in the hands of schools, rather than local authorities.

• allow admissions authorities to 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.

• allowing children of armed forces personnel and twins and other multiple-birth children to be admitted to infant classes even if it takes the class over the 30-pupil limit.

• ban admissions authorities from using area-wide “lotteries”.

• reduce bureaucracy by requiring admissions authorities to consult on admissions arrangements only every seven years (rather than every three years) if no changes are proposed.

The draft Appeals Code removes what is described as “unnecessary prescription” with the intention of making the process cheaper and less burdensome. The proposals include:

• parents will have at least 30 days to lodge an appeal against primary or secondary school decisions, with the intention that parents are not encouraged to appeal unnecessarily in haste due to the current short deadline.

• The test to be applied by IAPs will be split into three clearer stages: lawfulness and correct application of the arrangements; whether there is prejudice; and balancing. This seems to reflect the Court of Appeal’s clarificatory rewriting of the existing test in R (M) v Haringey IAP [2010] EWCA Civ 113.

• Anyone will be able to object to the Schools Adjudicator about admissions arrangements. The deadline for objections to admissions arrangements will be moved backwards to 30 June.

The draft Codes are drafted on the assumption that the Education Bill (currently before the House of Lords) is enacted. The regulations underpinning the admissions regime will be amended in due course to bring them into line with the new Codes.

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