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31/12/13

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Schools Adjudicator censures academy with skewed ability range but powerless to intervene with its CTC sponsor

Walsall Academy, where only 9% of the 2012 GCSE cohort were previously low-attaining pupils* and 46% were high-attainers*, has been censured by the Schools Adjudicator for its admission policy.

The Adjudicator ruled the academy’s admission criteria limited local access to the academy.  It wasn’t reasonable, the Adjudicator said, that children living up to 10 miles away could get a place when nearly 50 children living in the catchment area couldn’t.   Children living close to the school were disadvantaged by a “complicated” combination of banding and catchment areas.

The Adjudicator agreed the academy appeared “to deliberately exclude inner catchment children” but did not agree this increased the likelihood of discrimination against particular social or racial groups.

Walsall Academy is sponsored by the Mercers Company and Thomas Telford School, one of the few remaining City Technology Colleges (CTCs).  Thomas Telford School, praised by Education Secretary Michael Gove as an “outstanding comprehensive”, was named top-performing comprehensive school in 2012.  But like Walsall Academy, its intake is heavily skewed to the top of the ability range.  Its 2012 GCSE cohort had 63% previously high-attaining pupils and only 1% who achieved less than Level 4 in primary school Sats.  

According to Thomas Telford’s admission policy, a “range of ability [is] to be admitted – from 9 ability bands” and applicants in the top of each ability band will be given priority.  The policy makes no reference to “looked after children” as is required by the Schools Admission Code.  The school also asks parents to submitted copies of their child’s Year 5 report.  This is not allowed under the Admission Code.

I referred this matter to the Schools Adjudicator in February and received this astonishing reply**:

“I have now confirmed that Thomas Telford remains a City Technology College and as such is not subject to the Schools Admission Code.  There is therefore no basis for an adjudicator to consider the matter you have raised.”

It appears, then, the Schools Adjudicator was able censure the admission policy of an academy sponsored by Thomas Telford School but is unable to act when the admission policy of the latter does not adhere to the Schools Admission Code.

This loophole needs closing.

ADDENDUM

The sponsors’ page of Walsall Academy says Thomas Telford was “the first comprehensive school where 200% of students achieved 5+ GCSE grades at A*- C.”  It seems to have achieved the impossible.

 

*Previously high-attaining pupils are those who reached Level 5 or above in Sats at the end of Key Stage 2.  Previously low-attaining pupils are those who attained Level 3 or below in Sats.

**Email to author from Schools Adjudicator dated 20 February 2013

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