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Schools: Admissions

Volume 687: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will cancel their proposal contained in paragraph 2.13 of the draft school admissions code to remove the sibling criterion for certain state schools; and [HL334]

What is their assessment of the extent to which paragraph 2.13 of the draft school admissions code will create particular difficulties for parents with children already attending a partially selective state secondary school and where children obtained a place with the legitimate expectation that younger siblings would subsequently be able to obtain a place at the same school; and [HL335]

Whether the proposal in paragraph 2.13 of the draft school admissions code to remove the sibling criterion for certain state schools is compatible with their commitment to help parents to balance work and family life; and [HL336]

Whether, in light of the support and shared sense of family values which siblings can provide at both secondary and primary schools, they will reconsider the proposal in paragraph 2.13 of the draft school admissions code to remove the sibling criterion for partially selective state schools; and [HL337]

Whether they have made an assessment of the impact that the proposed removal of the sibling criterion in certain state secondary schools will have on the continuity of parental support in such schools; and [HL338]

How many representations and letters of objection they have received in relation to the proposal contained in the draft school admissions code to remove the sibling criterion for certain state secondary schools; and [HL339]

What assessment they have made of the impact that the proposed removal of the sibling criterion for certain state schools will have for parents and children, in terms of (a) the number of school journeys; (b) the length of travel time of those journeys; and (c) any logistical difficulties in relation to different schools having different term dates and inset days; and [HL376]

Whether there is a contradiction between paragraphs 2.10 and 2.13 of the draft school admissions code; and what assessment they have made of any potential problems families of children at certain state secondary schools will face if paragraph 2.13 is implemented in its current form; and [HL377]

What assessment they have made of the concerns of partially selective state schools which wish to retain their family ethos through the retention of the sibling criterion for admissions; and whether, in light of these concerns, they will reconsider their proposal contained in the draft school admissions code to remove the sibling criterion for such schools. [HL378]

Giving priority to siblings in school admissions can support families, especially those with young children, and this is acknowledged in paragraph 2.10 of the draft new school admissions code. The Education and Skills Select Committee, in its 2004 report on secondary school admissions, supported the use of this criterion but was concerned that giving priority to siblings could also substantially reduce the number of school places available for other families, including those with only one child or where the eldest child has yet to start school. This is exacerbated if schools do not take account of a family's change of address when applying the sibling criterion or by the use of other criteria, such as catchment areas that are some distance from the school.

Giving priority to siblings will reduce the number of places available to other families. At schools with a high proportion of selection by ability or aptitude there will be fewer non-selective places available for other families if siblings of those admitted by selection are given priority. Accordingly, paragraph 2.13 of the draft school admissions code states that priority for admission to schools that select more than 10 per cent of the intake by ability or aptitude should not be given to children on the basis that they have a sibling at the school. This is not an absolute prohibition; schools may continue to use the criterion but will need to justify doing so in the context of admission arrangements in their area if an objection is made to the schools adjudicator.

Parental support for schools is important, and the Government recognise this in the draft new school admissions code. The Government are also aware that some partially selective schools are concerned that they will not be able to encourage a family ethos if they do not give priority to siblings. The new code will establish a clear and straightforward framework for school admissions that puts the family at the heart of the system. It is essential that we extend fair access and choice to all families, not just a few.

To date, more than 2,800 representations have been received on this issue, primarily from parents who have children at partially selective schools and who may have expected their younger children also to be admitted. All the responses to the consultation will be taken into account in preparing the new school admissions code, for which we will seek the approval of Parliament early in the new year.