Schools have a statutory duty to publish their determined admissions criteria for 2014/15 by 15 April 2103. Many have not done so. This makes it impossible for people to read the criteria, which includes a school’s oversubscription policy, and complain to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) by the deadline of 30 June.
OSA has no remit to check on whether schools are complying with the requirement in the Schools Admission Code
that admission authorities determine and publish their admissions criteria by the deadline*. OSA suggested I write to the Access Division (ECAD) of the Department for Education (DfE). I did so and ECAD confirmed** there was a “statutory duty on admission authorities to determine their admission arrangements by 15 April every year and publish a copy on their website” but it was the responsibility of individual admission authorities to ensure compliance.
ECAD suggested I take non-compliance up with each admission authority (eg local authority for maintained schools, academy trust for academies). If the admission authority had “failed in a legal duty…the Secretary of State may issue a direction to the authority where he considers it expedient to do so.” In other words, any action would be at the discretion of the Education Secretary.
Following ECAD’s advice I wrote to three admission authorities (one was a small academy chain). Only one school bothered to reply.
It appears, then, that the statutory duty to determine and publish admission arrangements by 15 April is one that can easily be avoided. It also appears that it’s up to individuals, not OSA, not the DfE, to check that schools are doing something which by law they are supposed to do. And, as I have found, schools can ignore requests.
This loophole makes it easier for schools to get round the Schools Admission Code by delaying publication of admissions criteria. If the the late-published criteria flout the code there would be insufficient time to complain. The deadline for complaints to OSA is 30 June. Complaints can be made after that date but, again, this would delay the publication of any required changes until it was too late. Applications for secondary school admissions have to be made by 31 October (primary schools - mid January). Parents could already have listed their preferences based on misleading information in schools’ admissions criteria without realising that these criteria do not comply with the Admission Code.
The Schools Admission Code was supposed to make admissions clearer and fairer. But non-publication of admission criteria makes the Code easy to get round.
*email from OSA to author 7 May 2013.
**email from ECAD to author 10 May 2013