Changes to the Code on School Admissions

Has your child been turned down for a place at your preferred school? Did the school adhere to the rules when it handed out places?

John Chard outlines the recent law changes to the Codes of Practice on school admissions and school appeals, so that you know all the latest technicalities when you're making your school appeal. 

2007 saw the introduction of two important publications which will have a significant impact on how school admission applications and school appeals will be dealt with.

The new Code on School Admissions introduced important changes into how admission authorities deal with school applications.

The first of these changes relates to school admission arrangements. Admission criteria must be clear, fair and objective. Admission authorities are no longer able to use interviews, or other similar methods, as part of the admission arrangements, in order to solicit information about parents.

A letter has recently been sent to school admission authorities from Jim Knight, the Minister for Schools and Learning, concerning a number of reported breaches of the Code by some schools. The information being sought by some schools included asking for marriage certificates and details about personal income. Such information is irrelevant and plays no part in the admission process.

The letter from Jim Knight was sent amid reports that 79 schools were not following the new guidance. If you feel that you have been unfairly asked to provide such information, then you have grounds to appeal against the admission authority's decision.

Another important change is the introduction of what is referred to as an equal preference system. What this means is that whilst parents are asked to rank their preferences, admission authorities will treat them all equally.

It doesn't matter where you rank your schools, from the point of view of the admission authority, because they will treat them the same. So the admission authority will apply the published admission criteria to all applications, irrespective of whether they are ranked first, second or third. In London parents can express up to six preferences.

If, as a result of applying the admission criteria to all applications, an applicant is eligible for more that one school, the Local Education Authority (LEA) will offer a place at the higher of the ranked schools and offer the lower school to another applicant.

What was commonly referred to as the first preference first system, where all first preference applications were looked at before lower ranked schools, is now unlawful. Again, if your application has been handled according to first preference first and this has resulted in you not being offered a place, you have good grounds for a school appeal.

The timetable for appeals has now been extended. Previously, admission authorities had to send their statements not less than five working days before the appeal. Now they have to be sent seven clear working days before the hearing; the seven days doesn't include the date of the hearing or the day on which they are sent.

The new Code on School Admission Appeals has introduced compulsory training for Independent Appeal Panel members, although exemptions have been given to existing panel members and Clerks until March 2010.

John Chard's book, "Your School Your Choice", outlines the latest law changes to affect school admissions and school appeals. It tells you all you need to know to get your child admitted to the school of your choice, and how to win a school appeal if you don't.

Published on: May 28, 2008

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