Support Labour action against sneaky changes to the Admissions Code

Fiona Millar's picture
The School Admissions Code and regulations are now in Parliament. Labour has ‘prayed against’ them by means of an Early Day Motion number 2618. This should mean that these regulations will have to be debated rather than go through without debate.

The Government is making much of the extension of the right to object to the Adjudicator  in the new Admissions Code. But when you look in detail at the Code it is clear that in two important respects this right will be curtailed.  You can't complain about a school expanding ( expect to see more selection via this route) and you can't complain about free schools and academies that have been given the right ( in their Funding Agreements) to exempt themselves from compliance with the Code. This makes the original claim that all free schools and academies would have to abide by the Admissions Code seem hollow.  Moreover these restrictions did not appear in the consultation on the Code as I have explained in this article. You can also find more detail about this on the  Comprehensive Future website.

We can see from today's performance tables (as Henry Stewart has already pointed out on the site today) that selective authorities perform poorly when it comes to the performance of disadvantaged pupils or those with low prior attainment. Expanding selective schools, in the way the new Code allows, will only exacerbate that problem and create more segregation.Labour could and should have done more to address the continued use of the 11 plus when in office, but they should supported in taking this stand now. Please contact your MP to support the EDM, you can email via the website
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/01/2012 - 17:17

In areas where selection is still practised, there is no doubt that the non-grammar schools are perceived as second-best. The children that attend these schools are likewise seen as second-best, as are the teachers that teach them. This is grossly unfair. Even when all the factors for improvement are present (discussed on Henry's thread), the secondary moderns will never be perceived as being as "good" as the grammar schools that only deal with the top 25%. It is intellectual snobbery that perceives schools that cream off the top 25% as being "better" than the schools that educate the remaining 75%.

International evidence shows that the best-performing school systems globally tend to be those that do not practise this kind of segregation*. These systems promote equality and equity. Instead of adopting policies which would increase inclusion, however, the Coalition has put in place the means whereby the English school system will become less inclusive. Yet international evidence* shows that high-performing students "will fare equally well or better in mixed-ability schools".

*page 455 Education at a Glance 2011

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 27/01/2012 - 18:10

Why has education become such a political football in this country?

Parents want the best for their children.

Give them more variety, not less.

If some parents want and support selection locally by 11 plus, let them have it.

Pupils within a non selective alternative school that provides a broad ranging education of a good standard will often outperform the local grammar school. That's what they do in my town and the non selective school has every bit as much esteem (and more, for heaven's sake!) locally.

Peter's picture
Fri, 27/01/2012 - 18:21

segregation leads to a decrease in results. Best performing nations do not select. better to have excellent mixed ability schools across the board rather than mish mash of 'choice'

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 13:35

That brings us back to the fundamental problem.

Despite some excellent comprehensive schools, the standard of state education in this country is not as good as that of our competitors.

Accepting the status quo is not an option.

Parents are good at making choices for their children.

Chaotic diversity under benign, light touch, regulation will allow parents more choice in the kind of school that will suit their children.

Happy children, in schools that cater for their aptitudes, make the best pupils.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 14:08

'Furthermore, integration is insufficient to equalize educational opportunity. As Coleman first observed, and as this and other studies have confirmed, most of the variability in student achievement overall, as opposed to achievement growth during high school, is associated with students (and their families and communities), not the schools they attend. Therefore, to achieve true equality of opportunity will require addressing the pervasive inequalities found in family and community resources.'

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 14:13

Tim - "chaotic" is an apt description of what is happening now. Academy conversion is touted as the only remedy for "failing" schools yet many academies don't reach the benchmark. Gove says he wants more rigorous exams and then says he wants more children to get them. The government says it will allow no new grammar schools but then allows grammar academies to expand thereby creaming more high ability pupils from other schools. Gove says more "user choice" in education will improve results - but the OECD has found that the evidence on the effect of user choice on education outcomes is mixed, and the Harvard research cited by Mr Gove in his recent speech found no benefit (in terms of higher achievement) in increased user choice (Gove missed that bit).

Tim - as the 2011 school performance tables have just been published it would be useful if you could provide examples of a school in close proximity to a grammar school and both taking pupils from the same area has outperformed the grammar school in terms of raw results. The link is below.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 16:42

This thread is in danger of moving away from its central concerns about the admissions code.

Fiona rightly points out that no-one can complain if an academy wants to increase its numbers because it is its own "admissions authority" and doesn't have to consult. She warns that this is likely to see an increase in selection. This is what is already happening in south Lincolnshire.

The Code was due to come into force on 1 February, yet two weeks before this date, and less than two weeks after becoming an academy, Bourne Grammar School announced it would be increasing its published admission number (PAN). In a newsletter (Bulletin 13, downloadable below), the school says that more children who pass the 11+ will be able to attend the school and therefore avoid a situation where an "alternative school has to be settled for" (implying, of course, that the "alternative" is inferior). This expansion will cream even more high-fliers from neighbouring schools.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 17:08

I still haven't quite got the hang of why expanding a successful school to provide places for children who will benefit from the excellent education it provides is perceived as a bad thing.

Surely reinforcing success is a basic tenet of human progress?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 17:28

Tim - in the case above the expansion will allow one school to take more high ability pupils away from neighbouring schools. This would impact negatively on the results of the neighbouring schools. This in turn leads them to be perceived as inferior to the grammar school.

What does "reinforcing success" mean in this context. 99% of Bourne Grammar high ability pupils gain the benchmark 5+ GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English. The nearby creamed school, Robert Manning Technology College (now Bourne Academy) had 95% of its high attainers gaining the benchmark. Yet "reinforcing" the "success" of Bourne Grammar will have a negative impact on Bourne Academy which is also successful. Bourne Academy will, in effect, be punished because is is not a selective school. It will not only lose more high ability pupils, but will lose the money that came with them. Less income = fewer resources, fewer teachers and fewer courses = less attractive.

And as we keep repeating: the best school systems globally are those that tend NOT to segregate pupils academically or by area.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 18:04

Thanks again.

I regret I cannot share your confidence in the various attempts to identify global best school systems. Everyone seems to have their own version.

Some of the finest people I have ever met have been teachers.

Many, not necessarily the finest, feel a certain sense of exasperation with 'parents' or at least certain elements of that group and, at times, who can blame them?

But if a government listens to the concerns of parents, and then initiates popular reforms in response, maybe, sometimes, it's just best to go with the flow for a bit: 'the dynamics of change'?

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 16:56

Many thanks for your reply.

Interesting quote in your second reference:

'So what was the answer in Taipei, Shanghai and Seoul? In all three cities, my question produced an embarrassed laugh, and then the same answer: parental support. Everybody I spoke to - the minister, the teacher and the professor, as well as the students, the taxi drivers and the others - thought that what made the difference was the cultural status of education.'

I am not an educationalist so almost lost the will to live checking your first reference and then found that St. Aidan's Harrogate, which is streets ahead of anything else in town, is now an Academy but isn't showing any raw results.

If you google it ( ), the Oxbridge offers look good.

Harrogate Grammar has mixed reviews anecdotally but I see that it describes itself as a comprehensive academy anyway so maybe my putative examples don't stack up.

But I agree that it seems we are going down the 'chaos theory' route anyway! Hold on to your hats!

Rigorous exams and more children achieving them sounds good.

OECD research (how we love them!) always seems to produce mixed outcomes, as does Harvard research, probably because education, in the round, does not lend itself to exact measurement; but parents don't, for the most part, look at that research. They use the 'if it looks like a duck etc.' type of research.

So maybe parental demand should be the main determinant of what the state provides in terms of education in a democracy?

If that is chaotic diversity, so be it! It all seems pretty popular right now.

Let's give it a chance? You never know, it might work!

Problem schools will always be with us.

But if we encourage enthusiasts and enhance the prestige of the teaching profession, thus reducing and also illuminating the number of failing schools, we give ourselves a better chance of correctly directing resources towards their improvement, or am I wrong, again?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 17:36

Tim - I know what you mean by losing the will to live by trying to navigate through the DfE school performance tables. It's easy to lose a school. If they've become an academy you might not be able to find them. And then when you do the basic info might be wrong (addresses, names of heads and so on). When I've pointed out problems with the DfE "compare a school" site before on LSN I've even been accused of talking nonsense. I'm glad you support what I said about difficulties encountered when searching the site.

OECD didn't produce a "mixed outcome". Its research found that the evidence around user choice was mixed. In other words, OECD couldn't come to a definite conclusion because the evidence about user choice was mixed. However, it could come to a definite conclusion about what characteristics tend to be shared by the best-performing school systems.

You are so right about parental support - but I'm not going to discuss it here or I'll be off thread again.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 18:05

Off thread is good!

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 17:15

The Admission Code says that "Admission authorities must set („determine‟) admission arrangements annually. Where changes are proposed to admission arrangements, the admission authority must first publicly consult on those arrangements. ... Consultation must be for a minimum of 8 weeks and must take place between 1 November and 1 March of the year before those arrangements are to apply. ...This consultation period allows parents, other schools, religious authorities and the local community to raise any concerns about proposed admission arrangements."

A recent thread on this site (link below) raised questions about changes to the admission arrangements for the West London Free School for 2013. According to the rules above there should be a public consultation of up to 8 weeks which must take place before 1 March in the year before any proposed changes. It is only just over four weeks away until this date. So where is the public consultation? I've tried googling - but the search only finds the LSN thread given below.

Perhaps someone from the West London Free School will either let us know where the public consultation is, when it was placed in the public domain and how people can respond. If there is no consultation, then perhaps the school could confirm that their admission arrangements will remain unchanged (ie the same as those for 2012).

Toby Young's picture
Sat, 28/01/2012 - 20:35

We're midway through our public consultation about changing our admissions arrangements for 2013/14. We've sent it to all the admissions authorities, heads and chairs of governors within a five-mile radius of the school and we've asked the heads to make the parents of the children at their schools aware of it.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 08:13

Toby - your consultation, then, allows parents from schools within a five mile radius to respond but only if the heads make parents aware of the consultation. That neatly passes the buck to them. However, WLFS takes pupils from outside a five mile radius - shouldn't parents in schools outside the radius get a chance to comment?

The Admission Code also mentions "religious authorities and the local community." You don't mention churches, synagogues, mosques and so on in your list of those to whom you sent your consultation. And what about the "local community"? Sending a proposed change to admission arrangments only to schools and admission authorities is hardly consulting with the local community. How are people in the local community, which will include parents whose children are not yet in school as well as members of the general public concerned about fairness, supposed to comment if the consultation is confined to such a small group?

And why aren't the proposed changes on the school's website? It's the obvious place to look. Perhaps for the sake of transparency the school could provide a link.

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 08:37

Toby I have tried very hard to remain open minded about motivational questions which continually get launched toward you by some on this site.

If it is halfway through the consultation period...Surely a list of people to mail to was compiled well in advance, and the consultation started on or after the date of mailing?

A lot of local schools feel a massive budget squeeze already - and now they are being asked to photocopy all the pages of your consultation documents and distribute them to parents for WLFS.

It is your responsibility to make the consultation a 'public' one - not that of the area school heads.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 08:59

Tracy - I think this consultation might be a case of adhering to the letter of the law but not its spirit.

Typo alert in my post above: "arrangments" should, of course, be "arrangements". I would hate the message of my post to be dismissed by comments about spelling.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 17:19

I think we are all trying to be open minded.

If members of the local community have picked up any newspaper in the last 6 months, they will be in the picture.

Anyone with any concerns has had plenty of opportunity to get stuck in.

Call me old fashioned, but these objections simply come across as pedantic.

My apologies.

Lilly's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 18:00

Nothing has been in the paper about any consultation on changing admissions to allow founder children priority over other local children. Toby said he'd always abide by the admissions code. Then recently, that exceptions for founders kids would be in Annexe B. Its not there - but there is apparently a consultation on allowing founders kids on the basis that they were given permission. Where is it? I think we have the right to know.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 18:16

Then get hold of him:

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 29/01/2012 - 18:25

Or this:

It looks like it needs some good, direct commentary!

Hamish's picture
Mon, 30/01/2012 - 12:50

This isn't a comment directly related to all the above, but it does come back to the effect academies are having on admissions. In Bucks, the grammar schools are nearly all academies now and are all publishing new admission policies which take more control over their admissions including in some instances changing catchments and running their own admission tests (11+). At least when the selective system across the whole county was run by the LA, parents knew it was a standard system,and knew where they stood. Now, with Mr Gove's academies the system is disintegrating and it will be the middle class who win again.
The LA legally have to provide transport, and under the countywide scheme currently pay for transport (if over three miles) to the nearest catchment grammar school. With the academies moving the goalposts the LA will no longer pay for this, as they could end up with a big bill. So, again, the least advantaged lose out. Bucks Tories are really unhappy about this and are voicing this unoffically (so far). There has been no benefit to anyone in Bucks so far from the academies programme, except for a few power-hungry heads.

Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 30/01/2012 - 14:47


I would think variation in selective admission tests MIGHT be a good thing since the schools could potentially structure 11+ to be less "learnable" through tuition, and instead be designed for potential. There is no incentive to race for the bottom like the exam boards, unless you get a revolutionary head infiltrating, and the parents and governors wouldn't put up with it anyway.

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