On Monday 8 January, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills laid before Parliament the new school admissions code in draft form for 40 days as required by section 85 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
This statement brings to the attention of the House the correction slip which has been issued in respect of the penultimate sentence of paragraph 3 of the Introduction (page 7). This currently states that:
“This code has been made following a consultation under section 85(2) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, as provided by section 40(9) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, and has been approved by Parliament as required under section 85(3) of the 1998 Act.”
This statement is inaccurate in relation to its description of the prescribed Parliamentary procedure as the draft code in fact attracts the negative procedure. The sentence as corrected should state:
“This code has been made following a consultation under section 85(2) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, as provided by section 40(9) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, and has been laid before each House of Parliament as provided by section 85(3) of the 1998 Act.”
The Government apologise for the error. The timing of this new school admissions code is crucial. Admission authorities for all schools must complete consultation on their proposed admission arrangements by 1 March, and make a final determination of what these arrangements will be by 15 April in the calendar year before the academic year in which they will apply. The new code must therefore be in force before 1 March 2007 if it is to apply to admissions in September 2008. The Government consider that it would be unacceptable for the unfair practices and criteria that will be prohibited by this new school admissions code to be permitted for another year. As the school admissions code must be issued in the form of the draft, my Department has therefore issued a correction slip to the draft currently laid before both Houses which I have placed in the House Libraries.
If neither House resolves to reject the code (as corrected), I intend to bring it into force on 28 February 2007. It first affects school admission arrangements currently being determined for entry in the 2008 academic year. The code sets out a strong framework for setting fair and equitable admission arrangements and prohibits the use of unfair criteria so that no child is disadvantaged compared to another in admissions.