Who can make sense of this school's admissions?

Fiona Millar's picture
 15
On the day that the new Admissions Code is published, we have been contacted by a concerned local resident, who wanted to alert us to the interesting admissions criteria of this Academy school. This seems to me a very good, if impenetrable, example of how local autonomous state schools can use their freedoms when it comes to choosing which pupils to admit.

One good test of how fair a schools admissions are, is whether local parents can judge whether they have a reasonable chance of getting their child into that school. The reverse must be true in this case. Moreover it is quite hard to see how anyone could objectively monitor whether such a complicated process is carried out fairly. The school is clearly successful and popular, but I wonder how much that is to do with the way it uses its freedom on admissions?

I believe there are many more schools that operate similar byzantine, convoluted criteria to their advantage. All of which are acceptable under the existing admissions code and seem likely to be encouraged by the draft that is being published today. This is one reason why we need a new approach to school admissions, with proper local and national scrutiny of what individual schools do.

 
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Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 08:30

I agree. A few things about the Bill reported this morning seemed to suggest that Academies and Free Schools will get the new FSM priority admissions. If simplification is the aim, then why not apply this to all schools? It seems that Free Schools founders will be guaranteed places for the children in their schools. Imagine the outcry of a headteacher or school governor had the right to admit their own children in their schools?

We shall just have to wait for publication but early reports suggest the Admissions Code may have been simplified to encourage selection. I hope I'm wrong but we need to scrutinise the small print and any ambiguities.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 08:36

Compare the admissions policy above with the much simpler one for another Lincolnshire school, the successful, non-Academy, comprehensive in Deeping:

http://www.deepingschool.org.uk/download/policy/TDS-AdmissionsPolicy.pdf

The Deepings School admission policy is unfussy and welcoming. No mention of hoops - just fill in the form.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 09:51

Also Gove is now claiming to raise the powers of Schools Adjudicator. How does that square with what he has previously said and done?
Odd how this is announced today. It will go through unnoticed or with little time to be challenged in the recess. What is Gove hiding amongst all today's spin?

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 09:58

I really don't think we can make a very detailed response to the draft unless we can see it. I suspect the FSM line is designed to cover up for other changes that may make admissions less , rather than, more fair and transparent.

Nigel Ford's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 13:01

If an academy has access to KS2 results of a pupil from primary school, would this information also relate to whether he/she was an FSM recipient.

On that basis, the academy could cherrypick the brighter FSM pupils.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 13:09

SChools wouldn't have access to the KS2 results before pupils receive their offers. However, this idea about the FSM pupils is very vague because it doesn't explain how free schools and academies ( not part of local admissions arrangements) would choose if over subscribed with FSM candidates. They may find ways of using this special freedom to pick off the most aspirant, brightest FSM children. It is hard to see who is overseeing this at a local level.

Steven's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 15:28

FYI - schools still in the three tier system would know the KS2 results - those pupils transfer into Y9.

Melissa Benn's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 13:43

There are surely many ways that a local academy or free school can find out the attainment or expected attainment of applicants, including those on FSM, and can then make their admissions decisions accordingly. If this were to happen - and with no local body to oversee admissions in practice, how will anyone know? - then local authority maintained schools will then be offering places to lower attaining children on low incomes - having probably lost most or many middle class pupils to free schools/voluntary aided/academies already.
End result? More browbeating of local authority comprehensives as so called failing schools, with the public misled, once again, on the crucial question of intake.
As Allan says above - why apply this to only one significant sector of secondary schools? And if applied to academies and free schools, which, lets be frank, are so favoured in every way by the current government, it must be perceived by government as a potential tool of advantage.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 13:53

There need to be clear and fair oversubscription criteria for this category. I was pleased to see in the draft that the changes we fought for in an earlier round (2005-6) of discussions about the Code, ensuring that primary school references, professional background of parents, hobbies, and interviews could not be used, remain. However one of the problems with a 'slimmed down' code, is that much necessary detail is missing. I will be writing a longer piece about the draft once I have read it all.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:09

This is shocking. So as well as the grammar schools, can Lincolnshire academies can now select via the backdoor?

Alasdair Smith's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 18:49

Does the guidance explain how academies & free schools will select these FSM children? Is it by lottery? by other criteria? by interview?

Nigel Ford's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 21:33

With schools getting an extra £430 per FSM pupil under the Pupil Premium scheme and with the £625 million set aside in 2011-12 in the Pupil Premium budget rising to £2.5 billion in 2014-15, we can expect a pretty large increase on the individual £430 sum in the next 2/3 years.

There will be a huge financial incentive for free schools and academies to "sweep up" FSM pupils, making academy status more inviting for those schools in the maintained sector.

Once again the LA schools are on the receiving end of a bum deal.

Melissa Benn's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 09:28

I think Alasdair's question - see above - is the really crucial one. If it is by interview, then we will see a very interesting example of a new kind of selection start to take place.

Neal Skipper's picture
Mon, 30/05/2011 - 18:53

I don't think they can use interviews:
"1.7 It is for admission authorities to formulate their admission arrangements, but they must not: m) interview children or parents."

Charlotte Reed's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 18:34

I am delighted to find this. I applied to an academy school because I have a daughter who has a skill in languages in music. She was even nominated by her primary school to attend specialist fast track french classes at this school. Yet because she had to sit an aptitude test which was messed up on the day she didn't get in on aptitude yet many kids without any interest in these areas but clearly the right grade of parent did!! And the children were interviewed but it was described as an oral component of the test. I am launching a formal complaint which I believe has to go through the YPLA but can i ask the school to supply me with a copy of their funding agreement.

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