Question for admission experts - quick I hope!(18 Posts)
Is it legal for a new free school (say at site A) to have an admission point outside the school site (site B, over a mile away)?
The Admissions Code seems to say the Admissions Policy must specify the point in the school site from which distances will be measured, in the case of oversubscription on a distance criteria.
The school is not open, and the statutory consultation has not taken place yet I don't think, but AFAIK the planning and approval processes so far have been based on it being near site B. It is accepting applications for 2014 outside the CAF. Site A is in the middle of a historic black hole for secondary school places going back decades (although the situation may be a little better these days but that may not last - I gather primary schools are bulging round here).
If anyone can advise on the legal situation, and whether there is a precedent for this, I'd be really grateful (politically, it is complex, so I don't really want to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of free schools or whatnot here)
We did something similar with our Free school as we are in temps until 2015, so the specified measuring point is the middle of the secured new site for the school. As long as the admissions policy is clear and doesn't mislead, then I think it is ok, yes.
I am not sure what you mean by an admission point.
Do you mean they will use a specified point at site B to measure the distances for admission priority even though the school itself is situated at site A?
If so then yes this is allowed. It happens for example at church schools where it isn't the distance to the school but the distance to a named church that is used for measurements. It is much less common though - the norm is distance from home to the school gates to be used. Or a catchment area to be set.
The part of the Admission Code you are referring to does indeed mention a point "in the school" but if you look above that you will see that this is only intended to be an example of oversubscription criteria a school might choose to use. The list in the code is not definitive and, as long as discrimination of some kind isn't motivating the choice of measuring point or catchment area, it is allowed. I would advise however making your objections known to the consultation since your point about it not serving part of the community that has no school places is important especially is you suspect that some sort of backdoor selection is behind the decision.
Thank you both so much. It is a school with a religious "ethos" but church attendance plays absolutely no part in the admission policy, which is the standard community school type, and so no churches are named. Does anyone know of a precedent for this?
Yes, Tiggy, that's what I mean and yes you are right about my suspicions! In fact, parents in the area around site A campaigned for years for a school without success. Site B is a stone's throw from a secondary school. Site B is in a less deprived area than site A and is where the parents behind the school are based, and near the primary many of their children go to. These children would be unlikely to get places with an admission point within site A, if the school was successful. and vice versa.
Thanks again - the wonders of MN!
Should add the suggestion is that this admissions point at site B will be the permanent point - I think everyone assumed it was a temporary measure while a site was found but now that one has been identified some distance away, local councillors are saying they think there are no plans to change it.
There are plenty of schools with a religious ethos that do not give priority based on faith.
If they were in premises on site A on a temporary basis with an intention to move to site B it would clearly be acceptable. The situation you describe, however, is debatable. If it were the other way round (school in a less deprived area prioritising pupils from a deprived area) I think they would probably get away with it but a school in a deprived area prioritising pupils from a less deprived area may well be ruled unacceptable.
As Tiggytape says, you should make your objections known to the consultation. If the admission criteria adopted after the consultation show no change you should refer the matter to the Schools Adjudicator.
I think Bristol Free School did this. They set up on a temporary site but had the centre of the catchment area et their preferred site a few miles away. They ended up staying at the temporary site and families living very near the new school were not in the catchment area. Surprise, surprise the preferred site was in a very affluent area and the other site was in a more deprived area. I think they have nos had to alter the catchment slightly.
Marmite and prh, thank you so much, that is extremely helpful.
prh, yes, sorry I was not clear, what I meant is does anyone know of a precedent for a school like that - with distance-based criteria despite religious ethos - having an admissions point outside the school?
Thank you - I will certainly object and then contact the Schools Adjudicator if the policy doesn't change (which I suspect it won't - people round site A may well be pleased to think a school will be opening - the consultation is due soon and I am worried that people will not realise the implications of the small print - the people behind it are not answering questions on local forum etc).
Marmite, thanks, I will check out the Bristol Free School situation. I'd really like to find a similar case, especially where the two sites are some distance apart so any initial needs analysis or whatever would no longer be valid, necessarily.
I agree with tiggytape and prh47bridge.
In our LEA, we have had new schools starting from temporary sites and schools on split sites, both of which have used datum points that are not on the site where the new pupils will actually start school. In either case, that seems reasonable and defensible to me. What is being described here, though, seems questionable. This may not be the intention, but it might at first sight appear that the datum point has been selected in order to skew admissions to the school. It is certainly worth raising objections and, depending on how that goes, contacting the Adjudicator.
This brings to mind a situation a few years ago when a group of local parents campaigned for a priority admissions area to be created for what was then an Ofsted outstanding local school. The PAA would have covered a cluster of streets which were well within distance for getting a place at another, less well-regarded school but where there would have been no chance of getting a place at the outstanding school. The LEA put the proposal out to consultation but it was abandoned, not least because of sustained opposition from heads of local primary schools who were concerned (rightly, in my view) about longer-term implications.
PanelChair, thank you too. This is all most useful.
You are spot on about skewing admissions. I gather heads of local secondary schools are concerned in this case too. Site B is very, very close to the only secondary school in what could be described as that "town centre" (in a London sense). It also might appear that the datum point will not be changed to site A because that would mean some of the children of people who have worked and campaigned to get the proposal this far would not get places if it did move.
I looked at the admissions policy for Bristol Free School and it has a 20/80 split - 20% using the school as a point and 80% using the centre of a (modified to include the area near the school) "Neighbourhood Partnership Area". So it sounds like a fudge within a similar set up, thank you for the pointer.
Thanks again everyone.
Sorry, one last question....
If one of my objections is that children living in the more deprived area near the school will not get places in favour of children living further away in a less deprived area, is there a technical term for that kind of unfairness, or a specific clause, to which I could refer?
Don't worry about technical terms. Plain English is fine. You could suggest that they may be in breach of paragraph 1.8 of the Admissions Code.
That's great, thank you, I wanted something less subjective than "stinkingly unfair" .
Some schools are (going to) use nodes around the LA, in an attempt to make admissions fairer to people across the whole LA (because they are schools offereing specialisms, and admission by distance would be unfair I suppose)
That's interesting - and I wonder how it will work with parent-driven free schools (as there is no reason why a group of parents should have a particular commitment to equity across an LA - thank you.
In the city I live in, the most sought after school in the area distributes it's places to the primary schools in the city based on the size of the year 5 cohort in the previous year.
It means that in actual fact, the closest primary schools don't get the most places and most of those kids end up sitting the entrance exam which admits 10% of the intake to give them a better chance of getting in. It's all about being fair which on the surface the school you are talking about isn't being.
lalsy- they're not parent-led ones, funnily enough!
VworpVworp, astonishing .
MrsPnut, no, quite, but there is no borough-wide planning going on in the situation I am talking about, unfortunately.
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