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Have you checked your local school's admissions criteria against the admissions code?

(12 Posts)
geneticLottery Tue 26-Jan-16 22:53:19

So the Education Secretary wants to stop Fair Admissions Campaigners from reporting suspected breaches of the Admissions Code to the adjudicator, even though 41 of the 42 cases they brought last year were fully or partially upheld:

www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/faith-school-complaints-ban-is-affront-to-democracy-campaigners-say-a6833531.html

That means it'll be down to "local parents" to check whether schools are compliant or not, and to raise issues with the admissions adjudicator. The National Admissions Code is a pretty complex document - how many parents that you know have actually read it, let alone checked whether the schools they're applying to are following it?

The code is very complicated for schools to understand too, and apparently many don't bother reading it properly, so hundreds of (mostly unintentional) breaches are found every year, and the Schools Adjudicator's Annual Report implies that could just be the tip of the iceberg with 12% of Local Authorities reporting themselves as not confident that all schools in their area are code compliant.

To be fair I suspect some of the systematic breaches the Fair Admissions Campaign found in Faith School admissions could have been found in a similarly sized sample of non-Faith-school admissions too, but certainly not all of them as faith school admissions do tend to be relatively complex. This relates to one of the main findings of the adjudicator's report: "The admission arrangements for many schools that are their own admission authority are unnecessarily complex and lack transparency, especially those with numerous subcategories within individual oversubscription criteria. Such arrangements are difficult to understand and limit parents’ ability to assess the chance of their child being offered a place."

ChablisTyrant Tue 26-Jan-16 22:59:04

I doubt you'd find more than a dozen non-faith primaries breaking the rules. They simply don't have complicated criteria and for the most part follow a standard LA-wide approach.

I agree it is unrealistic to expect parents to police admissions.

MrsKCastle Tue 26-Jan-16 23:25:31

I think you might be surprised ChablisTyrant. The year that I applied for DD1, I had a thread going on here about a very weird set of criteria in my town. Basically some of the schools gave preference to pupils living in the other catchment areas. But because it didn't apply universally, it had the potential to be very unfair.

I got a lot of advice from the MN experts and contacted both the LA and the schools adjudicator- the schools adjudicator couldn't help because I hadn't contacted them in time- you have to do so when the criteria are first published, not in Sep/Oct when most parents start to investigate schools.

I was lucky- DD1 got a place despite the strange arrangements and the criteria were changed for the following year. But we could easily have missed out on our 1st choice school (our closest one).

catslife Wed 27-Jan-16 08:53:49

Potentially any school that is not a community school and acts as it's own admissions authority could break the admissions code. This includes faith school but also most academies and free schools.
In our area primary admissions were OK but we found one academy school that was specifically asking on a supplementary form where you had placed the school i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd preference on the LEA form so that they could effectively operate a first preference first system. This is against the admissions code so we complained.

admission Wed 27-Jan-16 11:42:46

There are quite a few that I know that are their own admission authority who have admission criteria that are "skating on thin ice" when it comes to whether they are totally legal. They get away with it because the only sure way of challenging it is to go to the Schools Adjudicator which many are not prepared to do,
To be fair to some of these schools, there is frequently no desire to break the law, just a lack of clarity in the published admission criteria leading to potential for confusion

tiggytape Wed 27-Jan-16 18:30:13

I'd agree that the main problem isn't so much schools willfully breaking the law to operate a selection system (although a few have been caught doing just that) but more the ridiculously complicated arrangements some schools have.

Some schools are so oversubscribed that they add layer upon layer of priority categories and tie breakers all of which may be legal but, added together, makes it very hard for parents to tell at a glance whether they're likely to get in and also whether the final allocations have been handled fairly.

If someone living further away got a place, most families want to know it is due to a sibling rule or down to attending a named feeder school. When you start adding baptism dates, little known parish boundary lines and aptitude testing in to the mix, it can feel less transparent even if in practice it is all done strictly by the book

tethersend Wed 27-Jan-16 19:07:24

I have checked, and my LA (Tower Hamlets) is breaching the code with its waiting lists policy. I have raised it with the head of admissions who does not agree that the policy breaches the code, so I will take it further.

geneticLottery Fri 29-Jan-16 21:38:16

Tethersend good luck with your referral. I referred a school last year and once I'd submitted the document it was a very smooth process. The school was grateful for the clarification because it didn't really know how to interpret the code. A Local Authority might be a bit more bolshy though. You can ask for anonymity from the other parties in the case, so long as you're not anonymous to the adjudicator herself.

You'll need to follow the referral timetable. Clause 15 of the Admissions Code says that schools' 2017 admissions arrangements have to be formally determined (even if they haven't changed) by Feb 28th, and published online. Once they're determined you have until 15th May to refer them to the adjudicator.

There have been some cases of schools that haven't published their documents online in time for people to meet the deadline, but that would be cause for complaint in itself so you could still refer them, and of course if they haven't consulted on a change you can assume they haven't changed from the previous year.

LilyBolero Sun 31-Jan-16 10:04:35

The Fair Admissions Campaign is its own worst enemy - they lodged complaints against pretty well every faith school on the final day for complaints, which caused chaos for the adjudicators, and massive stress for schools and parents.

The so called breaches they talk about are often very minor wordings - e.g. 'there are 25 places for local applicants' - when it should be 'there are up to 25 places....' , if only 20 apply. But they published that as being 'in breach of the code'.

carltonscroop Sun 31-Jan-16 10:24:29

A number of complaints have been about clarity of language (something which applies just as much to every Admissions Authority) and then is being spun into a campaigning issue.

But yes, they are correct in that every authority should meet the highest possible standards. (Only about 40 schools of the over 25,000 had issues anyhow, though somehow this has become 90% of those we surveyed had suboptimal language of the type that has been found to be a technical breach).

The breaches are not about who is being given priority.

Those are policed very effectively by parents via the appeals system. Read the MN threads on what constitutes the valid grounds for a winning appeal even under ICS rules.

meditrina Sun 31-Jan-16 10:26:13

The experts to look for on this are prh47bridge, admission and tiggytape.

geneticLottery Sun 31-Jan-16 11:05:16

Yes LilyBolero and carltonscroop, I agree diplomacy isn't one of the FAC's strong points. The Accord Coalition are more politically astute on that front, although less "noisy" as a result.

The adjudicator's annual report recommends some template admissions policies be created. Seems like a sensible way forward as lots of the terms are pretty standard, e.g. so there's no excuse for not defining LAC correctly.

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