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Schools: Admissions

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which maintained schools asked prospective parents to make a financial contribution as part of the process of school admission in each year from 2005 to 2008; and if he will make a statement. (201087)

The Department does not routinely check the content of schools’ admission arrangements as they are subject to a local consultation process. In our recent analysis of the published admission arrangements for 2008 in three local authority areas, we found that seven out of 570 schools had included a statement or request regarding financial contributions in their admission arrangements; and six of these schools confirmed this when we wrote to them asking them to verify our findings. This is a small minority, but we are very clear that schools cannot ask for a financial contribution as part of the admission process and wherever this is found to be happening we will not tolerate it. Even if voluntary, linking a charge to the school admission process suggests that parents who will pay the voluntary charge will be given priority if the school is oversubscribed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment his Department has made of the difference in the costs to local education authorities of registering a new child in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools at (i) the start of the school year and (ii) another time. (206845)

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what (a) rules, (b) best practice guidance and (c) financial incentives and penalties are relevant to the management of surplus school places by local authorities in (i) primary schools and (ii) secondary schools; and if he will make a statement. (207336)

There is no ‘surplus places’ rule in place. However, surplus places can represent a poor use of resources, particularly where schools with surplus also have poor standards, The Department and the Audit Commission have jointly developed a toolkit for LAs and schools to help them manage surplus places in primary schools. The toolkit is available on Teachernet at:

www.teachernet.gov.uk/management/fallingschoolrolls/

The Department provides capital funding under TCP (targeted capital funding) and PCP (primary capital programme) to LAs for primary provision and BSF (Building Schools for the Future) to help LAs remove surplus places as part of the drive to raise standards. There are no financial penalties governing the management of surplus school places by LAs in primary or secondary schools.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) when he last assessed the effect of the 1989 Greenwich judgment on school admissions in London boroughs; and if he will make a statement; (207345)

(2) what guidance his Department provides to local authorities and schools on compliance with the 1989 Greenwich judgment on school admissions; and if he will make a statement;

(3) whether his Department has undertaken research on the impact of the 1989 Greenwich judgment on school admissions; and if he will make a statement.

The Greenwich Judgment (R v. Greenwich London Borough Council, exparte John Ball Primary School (1989) 88 LGR 589 [1990] Fam Law 469) established that priority may not be given to children simply because they live in a local authority's administrative area. It was a sensible recognition that parents who live in one local authority area, particularly inner city areas, may be close to schools in a neighbouring authority and may wish to express a preference for those schools.

We provide guidance on setting admission arrangements that comply with this judgment in the School Admissions Code. It states in paragraph 1.16 that each local authority must ensure that their admissions policy does not disadvantage applications to their schools from families resident in other local authorities. The Department does not routinely collect or monitor school admission arrangements centrally, and has not commissioned any research into the effects of the judgment.