20% of first-wave Free Schools in breach of Admissions Code

Janet Downs's picture
Five of the 24 first-wave free schools have been found to be in breach of the Schools Admission Code. In July, the Schools Adjudicator ruled that the Maharishi Free School and the Langley Hall Primary Academy were not compliant. In August the Adjudicator found fault with the admission arrangements of the Barnfield Moorland Free School, part of the Barnfield Federation, and partially upheld a second complaint against the Maharishi Free School.

Also in August, the Schools Adjudicator censured the admission arrangements of the West London Free School (WLFS). The breaches included making a change to the admission arrangements after they had been properly determined, requesting copies of birth certificates before the offer a place, and not making it clear that WLFS would be compliant with the Code’s requirement that the school would take “all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of [musical aptitude] selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications”.

In October, the Priors School, a former independent school in Warwickshire, was censured for, among other things, making offers of a place to a child with a statement of special educational needs (SEN) conditional on whether the school had the resources. The Code makes it clear that children who have a statement of special educational needs naming the School must be given a place.

Free schools, according to their supporters, extend “choice” to parents and have “freedom” which is not available to community schools. However, “choice” is hampered when schools put obstacles in parents’ way and “freedom” should not be regarded as a green light to ignore the rules. Of course, it may be that these schools were ignorant of the requirements of the Schools Admission Code but the Trustees should ensure that they are not in breach of any legal requirements.

From January to October 2012, the Schools Adjudicator has upheld or partially upheld complaints about the admissions criteria of 51 schools. The figures are as follows:

16 Academies

6 Community schools

6 Free schools (one had two complaints upheld/partially upheld)

4 Foundation schools

17 Voluntary Aided schools

2 Voluntary Controlled schools

The number of complaints is, of course, governed by the number of people who actually complain and it may be that free schools attracted a disproportionate amount of scrutiny. Nevertheless, the proportion of free schools which had complaints against them upheld or partially upheld is far greater than the proportion for other types of school.

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