Does a'looked after' child always legally get to the top of the admission criteria for primary school?

(93 Posts)
Hellokittycat Mon 21-Apr-14 14:06:00

I understood that they did.
Have seen a faith schools admission policy that puts looked after children of faith, all other children of faith, non faith looked after children and then non faith other children as the order
Just wondering if this sits in with the legal requirements... Does anyone know?

FamiliesShareGerms Mon 21-Apr-14 14:12:08

There's a thread running over in the adoptions board now on a very similar issue.

As far as I'm aware it's right to the top of the list.

HanSolo Mon 21-Apr-14 14:17:28

Faith schools can prioritise LAC of faith over LAC not of faith, however, I do not know whether LAC not of faith get priority over other children of faith. Perhaps ask your LA admissions dept for advice? (However they will be very busy at preset, so unless this applies to this Sept's admissions, I'd leave it a few weeks before enquiring) smile

Kewcumber Mon 21-Apr-14 14:42:09

Our local faith school not only prioritises LAC of that faith over all other LAC but ALSO prioristises children within the faith practising within the parish over practising LAC outside the parish. Saves pesky LAC coming in willy nilly and draggin standards down hmm And they like to claim their results are because they are a religious school rather than because of of the costs of living within the parish providing a handy selection criteria.

I beleive faith schools can set their own admissions criteria - its why its a scandal that they are funded by the state.

Would love to see this policy operated by a hospital!

2468Motorway Mon 21-Apr-14 14:42:34

Faith schools often have

LAC of faith
Sibs of faith
Nearest faith
LAC of no or other faith
Nearest other children

It's not good as most faith schools rarely get past the 3rd one.

They could if they wanted to put all LAC at the top but they often don't.

tiggytape Mon 21-Apr-14 14:48:56

The admissions code says:

Admission authorities for faith schools may give priority to all looked after children and previously looked after children whether or not of the faith, but they must give priority to looked after children and previously looked after children of the faith before other children of the faith. *Where any element of priority is given in relation to children not of the faith they must give priority to looked after children and previously looked after children not of the faith above other children not of the
faith*

Which does seem odd to most because, apart from selective schools where a child does not pass the minimum mark on the 11+, all other schools must give priority to looked after children and those adopted from care. Even grammar schools must give priority if the child meets the pass mark but is still too low scoring to normally get an offer.

In normal admissions, LAC MUST get priority
In fairbanding schools, LAC MUST get priority
In random lottery schools, LAC MUST get priority
In 6th forms, LAC MUST get priority
In state boarding schools, LAC MUST get priority
In faith schools however they can give priority to children of the faith above LAC not of the faith if that is in line with how they admit all children.

tiggytape Mon 21-Apr-14 14:50:55

Sorry messed up quote. This is the relevant law about LAC and faith schools (Admissions Code 2012):

Admission authorities for faith schools may give priority to all looked after children and previously looked after children whether or not of the faith, but they must give priority to looked after children and previously looked after children of the faith before other children of the faith. Where any element of priority is given in relation to children not of the faith they must give priority to looked after children and previously looked after children not of the faith above other children not of the faith

prh47bridge Mon 21-Apr-14 18:10:13

Kewcumber - The admission criteria you describe sound like a clear breach of the Admissions Code to me. LAC children of the faith must always come ahead of all other children of the faith. They cannot prioritise non-LAC children of the faith within the parish over out of parish LAC children of the faith. If the admission criteria are as you describe please refer this school to the Schools Adjudicator. If there is any doubt I would be happy to take a look at the school's criteria and give an opinion if you PM me with the name of the school and the LA.

Just for clarity, it is not the case that all faith schools set their own admission criteria. It depends whether it is a VA school (which can) or a VC school (which cannot). Academies and free schools can also set their own admission criteria. Any school that has the right to set its own admission criteria is still required to comply with the Admissions Code which seriously restricts what they can do.

ReallyTired Mon 21-Apr-14 19:09:58

Invariably its catholic schools which insist on not prioritising faith. Practicing catholic LAC children are non existance. The type of parent who has their kids taken into care is not going to be arsed to attend church each week and manage to get their child baptised before six months of age.

I believe that Jesus would have been disgusted.

tiggytape Mon 21-Apr-14 19:15:53

ReallyTired, a child in foster care would count as a LAC. It is possible they may attend church with their foster family (even if the foster carers are not religious) if the birth family request this and it has been part of the child's upbringing to date.
Foster carers are expected to respect a child's heritage and background and continue religious worship where it is an important part of the child's life previously. In such cases a place at a Catholic school may form the ideal bridge between the child's former home and their current situation.

Children adopted from care also come under the LAC criteria in school admissions and of course Catholic parents, as well as many of other faiths and no faiths, adopt children. Again, these children would be counted as both Catholic and also come under the LAC category for the purposes of school admissions.

tiggytape Mon 21-Apr-14 19:20:02

I would also say that you generalisation about what leads children into care is ill informed at best. Unfortunately any family can fall apart given the right (well wrong) set of circumstances. Up until that point it is perfectly possible that the child has been baptised and attended church their whole life.

allmixedupreally Mon 21-Apr-14 20:26:48

In theory yes as many have suggested, however in practice this is not the case as historically many looked after children attended the worst performing schools. Things are slowly changing but I don't think it as as straightforward as the admissions criteria suggests. Otherwise the majority of looked after children would now mainly be in the top performing schools. Carers, Social Services and foster carers need to work together to ensure that this happens.
However which ever school the child is at there should be a designated teacher in post who is responsible for ensuring that the LAC educational needs are met. webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/01046-2009BKT-EN.PDF

2468Motorway Mon 21-Apr-14 21:10:26

Tiggy

I agree its best not to generalise and there are many reasons children end up in care. However the faith schools closest to me stipulate practising is defined by baptism before 6 months and 18 months to 2yrs attendance at a particular church (or in another case one of 2 churches). We live in a small town so its likely a LAC would not have been raised here but anywhere across the county.

It makes it a very high bar for a child in care or previously looked after to reach.

ReallyTired Mon 21-Apr-14 22:17:58

I imagine it would be next to impossible for a LAC child to produce a baptism certificate even if they have been baptised by their birth family before six months. Even families without any problems often mislay baptism certificates in a well planned move. I expect that its a low priority for a social worker to get hold of a LAC child's baptism certificate.

2468Motorway Even faith schools can be ordered to make a place for a particular child under the fair access protocal. A fairly high proportion of LAC children (by no means all) have a statement so its possible to force a faith school to give a place to a LAC child as a statemented child.

"Otherwise the majority of looked after children would now mainly be in the top performing schools. Carers, Social Services and foster carers need to work together to ensure that this happens"

I believe that in my LEA there is a rule that LAC children must attend a school rated at least "good" by OFSTED.

Why can't faith schools just give all LAC children priority? Surely that would be in line with christian teaching? Otherwise faith schools become exclusive little clubs.

AngelEyes46 Mon 21-Apr-14 22:52:18

My dd's school states the following:

1. Looked After and previously Looked After Baptised Catholic Girls; non-Catholic Looked AfterGirls in the care of practising Catholic families; previously Looked After Baptised Catholic Girls who have been adopted.
2. Baptised Catholic Girls who have made their First Holy Communion and have a sibling who will be in the school in the academic year starting September
3. Baptised Catholic Girls who have made their First Holy Communion
Candidates in this category will then be placed within one of the following sub-categories as shown in
Sub categories broken down by date of baptism and attendance of Mass
4. Other Baptised Catholic Girls
5. Other Looked After and other previously Looked After Girls who have been adopted.
6. Other Girls
So, the LAC are lower down if they or their families are not RC but top if either RC or their families are.

I'm not really sure why a you would want your child to attend a RC school if you do not practice that religion anyway?

ReallyTired Mon 21-Apr-14 23:04:21

"I'm not really sure why a you would want your child to attend a RC school if you do not practice that religion anyway?"

Personally I would only send my children to a catholic school when hell freezes over. (There are strong differences in theology between catholics and protestants. ie, transtantiation, the idea of purgertory, praying to saints would cause me to froth at the mouth)

Other parents want their children to attend an outstandng school. In some towns the catholic school is the only school that is classified as good. Surely its understandable that the coorporate parent wants the LAC child to have the best education possible without travelling to the next town.

A LAC child has often had a bad start and needs an outstanding school more than any other child. A practicing catholic family can easily provide faith education themselves. I am sure that children who do not attend catholic schools are allowed to take first communion. It is not a religious requirement that catholic children go to catholic school.

There are so few LAC children would it really make a difference to admissions if all LAC children were given priority? The number of LAC children is a tiny percentage of all school children. There are plenty of schools that don't have a single LAC child because none have applied.

Devora Mon 21-Apr-14 23:07:32

AngelEyes46, there are many reasons why a LAC may need to attend a particular school, even if they are not of that faith.

They may need to sustain the stability of existing relationships with other children who are attending that school.

They may need to avoid the only other available school - e.g. if other birth family members attend there.

They may need a particular kind of input that is available at that school e.g. expertise with a particular kind of LD, or lots of other children of the LAC's ethnicity.

The only other available school may be failing.

The only other available school may be in a part of town where LAC feels or actually is unsafe, or maybe they just need a school as close as possible to their home.

All of these reasons seem to me more important than sustaining the religious purity of a faith school.

I would love, love, love to hear how the MN defenders of faith schools could justify faith schools acting in such a mean-spirited way.

tethersend Mon 21-Apr-14 23:10:35

I am an advisory teacher for LAC, and part of my remit is to ensure that LAC attend good or outstanding schools. Clearly this does not involve removing children from a school they are settled at simply because it got a bad Ofsted Inspection, but the idea is to recognise the importance of education in a child's life, and challenge the notion of it as an 'add-on' to a good foster placement.

I have come across schools where a baptised Catholic Looked After Child ranks 13th in the priority list.

I have come across another school who interviewed children before offering them a place and declined a LAC a place on the grounds that they didn't think the carer was supportive enough hmm needless to say, another part of my job is to challenge this.

"A fairly high proportion of LAC children (by no means all) have a statement so its possible to force a faith school to give a place to a LAC child as a statemented child."

You would think that this is the case- in practice, a Looked After Child is often at a disadvantage when applying for a school place in any school, as the schools are then able to say they are unable to meet the child's needs (and frequently remain unchallenged by their LEA), whereas LAC are excepted children when it comes to ICS, and a request to go over numbers and admit a LAC of any age will usually produce a place. In the rare case that it does not, we ask the LEA to direct the school to admit the child or, if it is an academy, write to the Secretary of State (have thankfully not yet had to do this). The process for a statemented student is lengthier and rarely yields a place at a school which previously declared themselves unable to meet the child's needs.

Devora Mon 21-Apr-14 23:11:22

And I do have to declare an interest here: my dd2 is previously LAC and her admissions priority is about the first concrete gesture of support we've had from society. I savour it.

ReallyTired Mon 21-Apr-14 23:12:56

I had a look on the web and according to the NSPCC there are 91,000 LAC children in the UK which is frankly a drop in the ocean compared to the total number of children who live in the UK.

Its not going to make a major difference to the ethos of a faith school letting all LAC children have priority. It has to be remembered that the majority of LAC children will not want a place at the catholic school.

I can't see how anyone who claims to be a christian can justify not giving all LAC children priority if their carers choose to apply to a catholic school.

tethersend Mon 21-Apr-14 23:13:35

in practice, a statemented Looked After Child is often at a disadvantage

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 21-Apr-14 23:18:27

"I have come across schools where a baptised Catholic Looked After Child ranks 13th in the priority list."

I didn't know any of this, this is terrible.

tethersend Mon 21-Apr-14 23:20:04

The child was baptised at the age of two, and the school specified that baptism must take place within six months of birth for priority to be given.

2468Motorway Mon 21-Apr-14 23:30:44

In response to AngelEyes

' I'm not really sure why a you would want your child to attend a RC school if you do not practice that religion anyway?'

As I showed they may well still be of the 'correct' faith but unable to fulfill the definition of practising as described by the school. Baptism cert before 6months and a lengthy period of a specific church attendance are 2 that come to mind. Many looked after kids have moved about and will never pass these definitions of practising.

LAC are some of the most disadvantaged in the school system, to make them a top priority goes a tiny way to redress that. I think it's shameful that faith schools seek to dodge this for a tiny number of children.

Ps I have no vested interest other than it just strikes me as unfair.

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