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Admissions Policies (Northamptonshire)

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

17. What discussions he has had with schools in Northamptonshire on their admission policies following the Government’s recent analysis of three local education authorities. (205982)

My officials wrote to the admission authorities of 51 schools in Northamptonshire on 11 March, asking them to verify whether the admission arrangements being reviewed were in fact the correct admission arrangements adopted by their school for 2008-09. Since then, my officials have had discussions and been corresponding with a number of schools involved in the exercise to ensure compliance with the admissions code.

As a result of that analysis the Department issued a badly drafted press release that implied that schools in Northamptonshire were, among other things, taking money for offering places. It later transpired that not one school in Northamptonshire acted in such a way. Will the Minister now apologise to my constituents, and to the wider Northamptonshire public, for that truly disturbing press release?

The press release that we issued did not specify authorities individually in terms of the areas of non-compliance; we were very careful about that. We wanted to make sure that we had gone through the verification process. However, in order to inform the consultation on the admission arrangements for next year, it was important to publicise the levels of non-compliance that our internal exercise had found, including non-compliance in Northamptonshire in a range of other areas that were depriving some of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents of fair admissions to schools. We therefore have nothing to apologise about.