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School Admissions: Strengthening the System

Volume 473: debated on Monday 17 March 2008

Last Tuesday I announced the next steps we are taking to strengthen the admissions system. This statement provides an update for the House, and sets out further steps we are taking to ensure the proper implementation of the School Admissions Code, so that no parent or child is disadvantaged by unfair admission arrangements.

Extending the Role of the Schools Adjudicator

As I announced last week we will be introducing an amendment to the Education and Skills Bill placing a duty on local authorities to report annually to the chief adjudicator on the legality, fairness and effectiveness of admission arrangements in their area. Following Royal Assent, the chief adjudicator will be able to draw upon these reports in his annual report to me.

The chief schools adjudicator, Dr Philip Hunter, has written to my Department to propose the following for this year:

He will write to all local authorities before 15 April asking that they send him, by the end of June, a full set of admission arrangements for all the schools in their area, and their account of the legality, fairness and effectiveness of the admission arrangements that are being proposed for 2009 school entries in their area.

He will consider these returns, act where necessary to ensure compliance with the code, and then report to me later in the summer on compliance for 2009 admissions.

I propose to accept his proposals, and have asked him to provide an interim update in July and a final report on 1 September. I have placed a copy of his letter and my reply to him in the Library of the House.

Objections and Adjudicator Report

I have also today published draft regulations for consultation that extend the period in which objections can be referred to the schools adjudicator on determined admission arrangements for entry in 2009. Extending the period from six to sixteen weeks will ensure that parents, local authorities, admissions authorities, admissions forums and religious authorities have sufficient time to check proposed admission arrangements, and can refer an objection up to 21 August each year for admissions in the following year.

As I said in my statement last week we are currently verifying our recent findings with the local authorities and schools concerned and I will make another statement to Parliament when this process is complete.