Tell us your views on school admissions

Fiona Millar's picture
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.
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Rob's picture
Wed, 08/12/2010 - 10:25

I would like an end to selection on the basis of parents' (professed) religion. (I would also like a secular education system).
Selfishly, I would liked to have had preference for a community school on the basis that we are a family free from religion, but I would not want to see this in the code of practice.

Pascale Scheurer's picture
Wed, 08/12/2010 - 23:50

I would like to see the admissions code brought in line with Equalities law.

Discrimination by faith and gender is alive and well in schools. But is it legal? Has there ever been a legal challenge?

48.7% of London state schools, excluding grammar schools, are either faith- or gender-selective (DfE 2010).  Friends of mine have girl-boy twins and wish them to attend a non-faith school, together.  They have just slightly more than half the school choices of other parents.  In some areas it would be less than half.  This is deeply unfair.

Discrimination by faith or gender is illegal in every area of life outside of school gates.  How on earth is it allowed to continue within?

Source:  DfE 2010:

Liam Collins's picture
Thu, 09/12/2010 - 09:41

If we want to compete at the top of the OCED list then we cannot have selection on any measure...i think that is quite simple really

Ryszard Konietzka's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 16:08

Indeed there are many ways that schools - particularly non-LEA run schools can manipulate admissions and their own intakes; running own school banding systems, such as a number of schools in Camden like Camden School for Girls do; or indeed, taking 10% of pupils based on a particular aptitude, usually something like music to ensure that these 10% will be irretrievably middle class, such as a number of schools also in Camden do as well (Camden School for Girls do this as well).

Indeed, one of them, a trust school called William Ellis School, does just the latter. Guess who the chair of governors is ?

Rosie's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 19:41

Being a complete cynic I am assuming that the Code of Practice is being "simplified" to allow more covet selection in Admissions ( as with the School Admissions Code last year where the Clauses involving Statemented Children were NOT amended to take into account the large scale conversion of good/outstanding schools to Academies which are able to refuse to be named on a Child's statement).

The Canary Wharf Free School now claims it is a "Faith School" for its 2012 admissions and although it is not aligned to a particular Christian dogma and the staff/management have no formal Christian credentials this adjustment now allows them to vet applications from the child's "pastor/vicar/priest/minister * ( * delete as applicable) . I don't remember the CWFS starting off as a faith school and suspect this is a ploy to get stronger control over admissions. So in answer to your question I would want stronger scrutiny of schools professing to be faith based and vetoing of schools converting to faith schools.

Rosie's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 19:53

I looked at the William Ellis School Admissions criteria and am a bit perplexed. I thought that older sibling attendance as an admission criteria is frowned upon at secondary level at least with standard LEA Good Practice . Yet for William Ellis this is considered the most important after Looked After children and comes BEFORE children with social/medical need ... I am dumbfounded to see that it still applies if the sibling is in sixth form.

So I would expect the code to define a veto on the right to entry of siblings at secondary level except in exceptional circumstances.

Rosie's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 20:06

I may be blind but I can't see on the William Ellis website a clear statement of how to apply for the school only a short document on the Admissions criteria and it's not even in the Prospectus. I would therefore expect the Code to require all school websites to be very clear on the PROCESS for application.

Ryszard Konietzka's picture
Sat, 03/11/2012 - 03:36

Well, quelle surprise it's not on the website - imagine if the Torygraph got hold of information that the school where that scion of comprehensive Fiona Millar was Chair of Governors was actually partially selective. Lots of middle class people try and tell me partial selection 'ensures the schools intake is balanced' (i.e. less kids from the estate). Partial selection on aptitude/ability is specious because what tends to happen in these schools is this. Kids apply to get in via the aptitude route and are admitted if they pass the test. If however, they would have been admitted anyway, then the school swaps the category of the pupils from a aptitude admitted child to a mainstream admission and THEN admits ANOTHER aptitude child. You can get up to a 1/3 of the kids selected to the schools with only a 10% selection rate.

Check out the Camden Admissions website HERE

And download the secondary brochure.

There it gives the admissions criteria for all Camden secondary school. Ironically, the much maligned Academy in the borough doesn't select at all.

ABOVE straightline distance, the criteria say

"Up to 10% of places will be offered to applicants who can demonstrate musical aptitude as measured by the school’s assessment criteria. Supplementary forms for music applicants are available from the school. In the event of competing applicants of
equal proven aptitude, priority will be given to candidates living closest to the school."

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