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?

prh47bridge Wed 23-Apr-14 00:03:49

It is quite shocking really that legally ensured priority has only existed since the 2012 Admissions Code changes so is still very new

Pardon?

Priority for LAC has existed in every version of the Admissions Code. All the most recent version did was extend that to former LAC who have been adopted.

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 22:52:42

It is good to hear that LAC have provision now for a much better overview of their needs tethersend and that the mood is towards increasing this further. Multiple school moves would be equally disruptive.

I feel as you do that LAC should always be the priority for all admissions. It is quite shocking really that legally ensured priority has only existed since the 2012 Admissions Code changes so is still very new. It doesn't go far enough if there are concessions where children can still miss out - although how routinely they do in those types of schools, I don't know.

tethersend Tue 22-Apr-14 22:12:36

Fair point, tiggy- that particular school is a law unto itself. It was perhaps not the best example to use to illustrate my feelings about faith schools' approaches to LAC. Put simply, I feel that LAC should have the highest priority in all schools.

"However, in practice it would often be seen as potentially more damaging to force a foster family into a position where they felt unable to care for that child anymore (multiple school runs that disrupted work and homelife for everybody) than it would to agree to send the foster child to the same school as any older children."

Historically, this has been the case- but it should be challenged, as it is not on its own an acceptable reason for choosing a school for a Looked After Child. LAC should access the highest quality education available to them, hence the admissions criteria.

Consistency in education is key- Virtual Heads are working to reduce the number of school moves experienced by LAC; school can often be the only constant in their lives.

Children who have been placed in the same school as foster siblings can find themselves in a very difficult position if the placement breaks down and they face either seeing the previous foster carer at school or dealing with another school move.

A school needs to be chosen which will best meet the needs of the Looked After Child, regardless of the needs of the foster carer. If a school is found which is suitable for both, that is excellent, but the child's needs take priority over the foster carer's. The expectation is that the foster carer will prioritise the education of the child in their care; after all, many LAC will already be attending a school, and the foster carers are expected to accommodate this unless the distance is too far for the child to travel.

Any LAC placed at a school which is rated by OFSTED as a 3 or 4 in order to minimise the impact on foster carers will result in serious questions by OFSTED when they inspect Children's Services.

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 21:15:34

tether - I appreciate some schools do not always comply with admission rules and agree this needs to be challenged. However that does not mean the admissions process is flawed - in the grand scheme of things, schools who break the rules so blatantly as to actually interview pupils are very rare indeed.

A foster carer does not have parental responsibility for a foster child so it is perfectly true that in theory they do not make decisions about the child's education. However, in practice it would often be seen as potentially more damaging to force a foster family into a position where they felt unable to care for that child anymore (multiple school runs that disrupted work and homelife for everybody) than it would to agree to send the foster child to the same school as any older children. That won't apply in all cases of course but is one practical consideration that sometimes is a factor.

tethersend Tue 22-Apr-14 20:56:26

"Interviews are not allowed for state schools. For 6th form places they can be used to discuss the subject options and requirements but must not inform the decision making process. That isn't an LAC issue - if any school are cherry picking pupils via interview they are in gross breach of the law."

Indeed, tiggy- but as I work exclusively with LAC, I need to challenge breaches of the law when they affect the LAC children I work with. This school has been mentioned a few times on MN for other breaches of the law, and I am still agog that they have not been reigned in.

"The foster family is unlikely to want 2 or 3 children all in different schools by choice and therefore may not actively apply to faith schools or more distant schools that their other children cannot attend even if this is an option."

The choice of school is not the Foster Carer's to make, as they are not the corporate parent- the SW or Virtual Head is ultimately responsible for the choice of school (the parent will share this if the child is accommodated under Section 20 and they retain shared PR). Unfortunately, many SWs are not knowledgeable enough about schools to challenge a Foster Carer's preference, and make decisions in fear of disrupting the placement. As I stated earlier, LAs are under considerable pressure to ensure that LAC are placed in good or outstanding schools; unfortunately, this does not always filter down to SWs. With the Virtual Head role now mandatory, this should hopefully change.

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 20:26:26

our new catholic school got around this 50% by claiming (with the councils support) that it only applied to schools who had chosen to set up, as it was apparently "necessary" to hav a catholic school they didn't have to comply.

Very odd.

FamiliesShareGerms Tue 22-Apr-14 19:20:23

All new schools now have to be free schools, which are limited to max 50% prioritisation by faith criteria (though of course in practice other criteria such as distance or parental preference may make a school near 100% of one faith).

Independent schools may apply to convert to free schools (ie to gone into the state sector) but are also bound by these rules re max 50%. Existing VA / VC schools can also apply to become academies, and they are currently allowed tk convert "as is" wrt admissions criteria. (Designated schools are also allowed to discriminate in the appointment of staff of their faith within certain parameters).

But they should all, IMHO, give LAC priority in their admissions for all the very good reasons set out above.

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 18:01:11

Kewcumber - that isn't unique to faith schools

At primary for example an older child might not get any local school allocated and be forced to attend one 2 miles away in special measures. That school could have a priority catchment area and low sibling priority as its admissions criteria - not that it matters because everyone who applies to it gets an offer and not many apply!

Fast forward 3 years and the same school gets a new Head, outstanding Ofsted and is "the" school everyone wants. People forced to attend it when it was in special measures will now be unable to get their younger children a place because the priority catchment area will fill up all the places long before it gets to siblings.

In places like Devon where location trumps siblings, this is not uncommon at all.

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 17:55:02

prh perhaps you also know then that the big issue with applying to said catholic school is that its already been stated that whilst you might get your non-catholic child into the school in the early years when its undersubscribed (there were even as you know cases of people being offer SRR when they hadn;t applied and aren't catholic!) that in future the criteria will continue to be catholics first everyone else second - even siblings. So if you oldest child is forced to go because of a lack of alternatives in 2/3/4 years you could be refused a place for a sibling on the basis that they aren;t catholic.

Sorry but the whole think is nonsense in my very humble opinion.

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 17:51:15

I can only case my opinions on what I know.

Perhaps the religious education in other parts of country is fair, I judge by what I've seen and it doesn't look good to me.

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 17:49:37

"Richmond Council said all families who applied to the council have received another secondary school place.

But one parent said her daughter was left with her fourth choice of school, forcing her to get two buses to get there each day.

A council spokesman said: “We recognise that for the many families that backed the school, this will be a disappointment. The council is very keen to offer whatever help it can to assist the school, so it can open in 2015.”

Pretty much the 150 places that had been offered were offered whatever was left over after everyone in the whole borough accepted their offers.

The coucil has been widely criticised for allowing Turing House to make offers without a permanent site available but frankly having shouted very loudly that it was essential that the catholic school had the only credible site available they had painted themselves into a corner.

The truth is that the catholic school didn;t free up as many spaces as teh council were claiming it would as many catholic children went to secondary catholics out of the borough (bearing in mind this is a very small london borough that generally wasn;t too far away!).

The conservatives have lost a LOT of votes on this matter in a marginal seat... added to which the head of the conservatives sits on a catholic charity which wasn't initially declared when the "negotiations" for the property were announced.

Its all very unsavory in my opinion - religious education of a minority has trumped the rights of the majority of children in this borough to go to a decent fairly local secondary school.

I know thats rather off topic but theres a lot more bitterness about this locally than the tory party realise.

prh47bridge Tue 22-Apr-14 17:49:24

Kewcumber - I am aware of the Richmond case. I was keeping it simple. I very much doubt we are going to see a rush of new VA schools opening across the country. It requires the co-operation of the LA and most will not do it. And, for the sake of accuracy, the school can give priority to Catholic applicants but it cannot exclude non-Catholics. If there are fewer Catholic applicants than places they must admit non-Catholics. Of course, it may be that there will always be more Catholic applicants than places but, given that they only prioritise baptised Catholic children, there is a reasonable chance that this won't be the case.

Whilst there are exceptions such as the one you highlight I stand by my comment that the vast majority of VA schools use land and buildings belonging to the church.

Devora Tue 22-Apr-14 17:24:00

I don't know, Tiggy. I guess it depends on whether places had been reoffered - do you know, kew?

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 17:17:29

Oh I see Devora. That is awful. Were the council able to reinstate the original allocations to the children who'd opted for the Free School during that time?

Devora Tue 22-Apr-14 17:12:39

Tiggy, you asked kew about why children are left without places after the free school had to delay opening. My understanding (I also live locally) is that parents were told the school would not open several days AFTER school places had been offered. So many had already turned down their other school place.

ReallyTired Tue 22-Apr-14 16:53:17

2468Motorway

100% agree with your post. In my county the few grammar schools left do give priority to LAC kids.

Giving LAC carte blanche choice of mainstream state school is essential.

2468Motorway Tue 22-Apr-14 16:45:08

In answer to prh47bridge.

LAC have a lot stacked against them. I wouldn't care if it only affects one child. LAC may not have a pushy advocate or had many house moves (not including the trauma of being in care as well). It should be about sending the right message. That message is 'you've had a tough start, let's see if we can do something to ensure the best outcome for you'.

The rules should be made to change and I would also in grammar schools make LAC a priority if their primary teacher or an ed psych recommends them regardless of 11+ scores.

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 16:43:35

Sorry - that was all very muddled.
My point was about stats.
Stats might show few LAC in some faith schools.
This may prove that they are denied places in favour of faith applicants.
But equally may prove that their foster families won't apply to hard-to-get-into schools (faith or non faith) for a foster child when the older children of the family cannot attend that same school and don't want to leave the one they already attend or do 2 school runs daily.

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 16:40:06

Lots of parents who accepted places at the new free school are now scrabbling around to find (non-existant) places.

As an aside, I understood that Free School allocations in such circumstances were in addition to council allocations. Therefore every child with a Free School offer should not have been left without a place because they will still have their council allocation? Has that not happened?

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 16:38:01

I was responding (perhaps a bit late) to the question about how statistically it would be possible to prove if LAC are often denied a church school place and whether this is an actual issue that affects lots of children.

My point was that not all LAC would necessarily have missed out due to admissions policy but due to the fact that there are practical considerations about where they apply.

The premise for the admissions rules is that LAC should go to 'better' schools because they would benfit most from this. However having other children in a foster family to consider may mean they do not end up going to 'better' schools at all or the hard to get into faith schools. Any statistics may not show the real reasons behind potentally lower numbers of LAC children is lower in faith and other schools.

I have already said I think the LAC category should always trump any faith criteria in any school but that doesn't mean people would choose those schools for their foster children if their older children wouldn't get in.

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 16:34:56

Judicial review here including the point that the council paid for the site - so the church didn;t exactly have deep pockets in this case.

https://humanism.org.uk/2012/12/14/full-judgement-published-in-richmond-catholic-schools-judicial-review/

To add insult to injury the (approved) new free school can't open in Sept 2014 because there is no permanent site available because the council gave away the only available site to the catholic church! Lots of parents who accepted places at the new free school are now scrabbling around to find (non-existant) places.

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 16:28:50

I'm not sure what your point is Tiggy.

YEs of course school choices have to be made on a practical basis as well considering where other children go, but what has that got to do with whether the school should be offering LAC places as the highest priority?

Parents and carers chose a school for any number of reasons

Kewcumber Tue 22-Apr-14 16:23:28

The local catholic secondary had land "donated" by the council on a 100 year lease at a peppercorn rent. The buildings needed very little adaptation as it was a preexisting adult education college.

New faith schools are only allowed to select up to 50% of their intake on faith grounds this isn't true and I know its not true because Richmond council/catholic church decision to open a new catholic secondary with 100% catholic intake was taken to a judicial review last year by the Richmond inclusive schools group who lost. Apparently there is a loophole whereby religious schools can set up with 100% selective intake and then subsequently convert to an academy keeping their selection criteria whilst getting the benefits and funding of an academy.

I wasn't involved in the group but I followed it closely at time. The decision made a mockery of the 50% selection as now it seems any religious school has carte blanche to do it this way and have a 100% religious selection.

tiggytape Tue 22-Apr-14 16:10:07

Yes Teen that is true.
I am thinking more of families that have school age children of their own who also foster younger children.
They have to apply for their older child's school place with no priority at all so like a lot of people they might not get a good school.
Then their foster child applies a few years later. Theoretically they could ask that the foster child to go to any good school but they might not want to. They might not want to do 2 separate school runs or pull their older child out of the school where they are already settled.

TeenAndTween Tue 22-Apr-14 16:04:45

tiggy not sure you are right there wrt adopted children at least, or at least not entirely.

An older sibling of an adopted child wouldn't get priority for a school, just because their younger not yet at school sibling was adopted.

However, once the adopted child was at school, then any sibling would be positioned on the waiting list as a sibling link, so could in theory move schools to be with younger sibling if there was a space (if that makes sense?). Whether a parent would want to move their older child is another matter altogether of course.

I know of at least one adopted child who this year has missed out on a place at a CofE school due to positioning of children of faith above non-faith LAC/Adopted.

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