LAs can’t direct academies to accept pupils: this could have negative effect on hard-to-place pupils, Academies Commission warns

Janet Downs's picture
The Academies Commission reported that several researchers had found that when market forces enter education systems this “provides incentives for schools to avoid particular, vulnerable pupils who might be seen as detrimental to the school’s attainment profile.”

Academies are their own admissions authority. Some Local Authorities (LAs) s told the Commission that they feared an increased number of academies could lead to these schools refusing to take their fair share of pupils with “multiple challenges”. These children would become hard to place. Some LAs also feared that schools whose results were at or near the floor target might become increasingly reluctant to take pupils who might bring down their results.

The model funding agreement for academies (Annex C) seems to suggest that although an LA can propose the naming of an academy on a statement of special education need the academy can appeal to the Education Secretary to make a (different) determination. The Commission found the implications of this baffled even legal experts. The Commission thought this illustrated “lack of transparency for parents and other non-expert stakeholders.”

The Commission identified an apparent trend towards not appointing Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinators (SENCOs). The Commission expressed fears that:

1 Academisation could have a detrimental effect on LA central provision of services for SEN pupils eg closure of specialist units for low-level disabilities or that funding for this provision would no longer be ring-fenced after 2012/13;

2 A population of hard-to-place children could emerge;

3 These hard-to-place children could be permanently placed in Alternative Provision Units (APUs);

4 Academy chains could set up APU free schools or APUs separate from the original academy thereby removing from the original academy those pupils likely to have a detrimental effect on performance data. This was seen as a move away from inclusion.

The Academies Commission report was published in January 2013. The Department for Education has published no press release dealing with its findings.

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