One of the issues that generates most heat on this site is school admissions. The push for more diversity, and more autonomous schools, in the last 15 years has meant an increase in the number of schools able to control their own admissions.As we have seen from the comments in recent weeks the plans of the new 'free' schools, the practices of existing grammars and some faith schools generate strong views.
All schools are governed by the Code of Practice
, introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, and tightened up in recent years. So schools are now forbidden from interviewing, using references from primary schools or supplementary forms that give clues to a family's income or social class. Signals that encourage self selection, ie telling parents at the open evening that the uniform costs £400 or that the school expects all students to have access to a personal computer, are also discouraged.
However selection by ability in existing grammar schools is still tolerated, although new selection ruled out. Selection by aptitude of up to 10% of pupils is permitted, as is selection by faith, involving a waiver of the equalities legislation, and there are still many ways that own admissions schools can manipulate their intakes; setting favourable catchment areas; choosing particular feeder schools; running own school banding systems that band against the ability spread of applicants, rather than the a local ( or national) spread of ability,often preceded by judicious distribution of the school brochure, parents being asked collect the brochure in person, or tests being run on a Saturday morning.
Parents do now have the right to object to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator
if they think a local school is breaching the Code, and parental objections are increasing according to the Adjudicator's latest report
. However the Adjudicators can only ask schools to comply with what is in the Code so they can't make a judgement on the fairness of the 11 plus, or the use of faith criteria, or some of the other practices described above, as all are permissable.
We understand that the Coalition is reviewing the Code of Practice and expecting to bring out a draft Code for consultation in late January. The new Code will be finalised by next summer, giving time for any changes need to primary legislation, then in force in time for the 2013/14 admissions round. They want to simplify it, and make it more accessible to parents. But will ministers agree to making the more drastic changes that are needed to ensure no school can turn away a local child, or engineer itself a more favourable intake than its neighbours? We want to make a representation to Michael Gove and would like your how school admissions work in your local area and what could, and should, be done to make the system fairer. Please respond here.