Schools Adjudicator finds fault with admissions criteria in two free schools

Janet Downs's picture
The Maharishi Free School, Lancashire, and the Langley Hall Primary Academy, Slough, have had to amend their Oversubscription Criteria for 2013 by order of the Schools Adjudicator.

Both schools had named privately-owned fee-paying schools as feeder schools – this is not allowed under the new Admissions Code. Both schools are required to amend their Oversubscription Criteria accordingly. In addition, both schools have to make other amendments including saying clearly what they mean by “catchment” and changing their policy towards children with a statement of special educational need which names the school – Langley Hall must amend its Oversubscription Criteria to say that it will admit such a child rather than just considering admittance.

Langley Hall had been under the impression that the Department for Education (DfE) had given permission for the academy to name an attached fee-paying nursery, Wellingtons, as a feeder school. However, notes of meetings between the DfE and the free school before it opened indicated that there were concerns about naming Wellingtons as a feeder school. The Schools Adjudicator said that whatever the free school thought was agreed in 2011 before the new Code came into force did not apply now. Langley Hall said “they may consider exploring again with the DfE whether there is any way the School could have an agreement to be exempt from some of the admission requirements so that priority could be given for attending Wellingtons Nursery.”

No state school should expect to be granted exemption from any part of the Admissions Code. The clauses in the Code are legal requirements not optional extras which schools can ignore if they wish to do so.

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Rosie Fergusson's picture
Mon, 06/08/2012 - 22:41

Shame the adjudicator doesn't condemn Langley Hall's established social exclusion admissions criteria namely the ludicrous price of the "private school look " uniform (£27/kilt plus hat) and mandatory purchase of a violin. ( there's reasons why their FSM figure is so below that of the surrounding area).

Bradford Girls Grammar School guarantees a place in Year 7 for any girl attending the on site fee paying prep school.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 07/08/2012 - 06:58

Rosie - it would appear, then, that Bradford Girls Grammar School could be in breach of the Admission Code. Although it's too late to complain to the Adjudicator in time to get schools to change published criteria for 2013, the Adjudicator will accept complaints at any time, investigate and issue some sort of reprimand (which I suppose is to stop the school doing the same thing next year). Any such decisions would be reported on the Adjudicator's site.

The Admissions Code has legal backing - perhaps if there were some tougher sanction (fines, maybe) rather than just requiring schools to change their illegal criteria, then fewer schools would try to get away with it.

The guidance on school uniforms (see my comments on other thread by Sarah Dodds) says schools should take account of affordability, sourcing and avoid having just one outlet. Again, many schools ignore this, insisting on braided blazers, even silly hats as at Langley Hall, which can only be purchased from one supplier (but I suppose it adds some spurious kudos if the school's supplier is the same one that supplies Eton).

Brown's picture
Mon, 20/08/2012 - 12:09

In regards to Langley Hall case, adjudicator delivered the verdict on 6th July and instructed the Langley Hall administration to publish new admissions criteria asap. Its been 6 weeks since the verdict was given and the school has not published the new admissions criteria. I'm sure this is to ensure, parents worrying about the old criteria in the mind place their children in the linked Nursery for the new session starting in the month of September 2012, so they may get preference for Reception class 2013.

I hope some one is monitoring what this school's administration is up to. Not sure how difficult is to keep personal greed way and fulfil the purpose government had in mind for the open free schools . It is a shame if the seeds of such institution is being laid on the greed, what can one expect from the fruits this tree will bear in time to come.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 20/08/2012 - 14:48

Brown - unfortunately the schools adjudicator waits until there is a formal complaint before investigating possible breaches of the code. This means that there is a good chance that schools with admission criteria which name private, fee-paying nurseries will get away with it. This ensures the nurseries will attract parents wishing to hedge their bets and secure a place in reception otherwise they could find their children refused a place. This is discriminatory and likely to excuse disadvantage children.

Complaining to the adjudictor is time-consuming and involves form-filling - a simple email doesn't seem to suffice. The form requests that the one making the complaint should be identified. However, it is possible to request anonymity - there is no need for the name of the complainer to be known. If the admissions criteria is breaking the code it is also breaking the law - the name of the complainer is not needed for the case to proceed.

The consequences for schools of publishing illegal admission criteria should be more severe than just requiring the schools to change their criteria and publishing the decision of the adjudicator's website.

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