The revised Admissions Code and Admissions Appeal Code were published in November. The main changes identified by the DCSF are:
placing a duty on admission authorities to engage with parents and the wider community when setting their admission arrangements, in order to meet the needs of their local area
giving priority for state boarding school places to children of armed forces personnel
changing the application and allocation process so that parents will only ever need to apply for a school place to the local authority in which they live instead of the authorities where their preferred schools are located
prescribing national closing dates for primary and secondary applications
improving the information parents receive on the admissions process, so they are fully engaged and informed
making changes to admission forums so they are representative of parents and the local area, and consider the fairness of admission policies for that area
Two changes may well be of some interest to the legal profession in future:
allowing schools to advise parents of their ethos during the application process and asking that parents respect this ethos
giving MPs and elected councillors the right to support parents at an admission appeals hearing as long as there is no conflict of interest
The final point seems to be asking for trouble. It is hard to see how local councillors, in particular, will choose fairly among the hard cases that will come to them. It is also difficult to see how council employees on an appeals panel will be able to exercise their judgement when their employer is urging the case of a particular parent.
There must be a fair access protocol and local authorities must not require undersubscribed schools to admit a greater proportion of children with challenging behaviour than other schools. Nor must they allow schools for which they are the admission authority to take a greater proportion of such children than other schools.
A governing body appears to be able to refuse to admit even where the local authority is the admission authority, as this eventuality is allowed for by a provision for the secretary of state to intervene in such a case.
The situation is clearer where a school is its own admission authority. It can refuse to admit but a local authority can direct admission even where the school is over-subscribed. In that case the school can appeal to the school's adjudicator for a ruling.
How far the new codes will ensure the changes that the government wishes remains to be seen. There is plenty of time before the next election for at least one more revision if these do not work.
© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders