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Schools: Admissions

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 4 December 2008

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I have presented to Parliament the revised school admissions code and school admission appeals code. Subject to the parliamentary procedure, these codes will come into force in February 2009.

This Statement follows on from previous Statements I have made to the House on improvements I have made to strengthen the statutory school admissions framework and place children and families at the heart of the process.

Through the Education and Skills Act 2008 we have strengthened the statutory admissions framework to ensure that all schools adopt fair and lawful admissions practices. Local authorities have an important role to monitor compliance with the code and are now required to report annually to the schools adjudicator on the fairness and legality of the admission arrangements for all schools in their area. As the independent enforcer of fair access to schools, schools adjudicators now have a wider remit to consider any admission arrangements that come to their attention in addition to any complaints received through an objection. The schools adjudicator will report annually to the Secretary of State on how fair access is being achieved locally.

Following extensive consultation throughout the summer on a number of proposals to improve the application and allocation process for parents and to further strengthen the admission system so that it works for all children, I have revised both codes to achieve a better, fairer system for all families. The revised codes:

place a duty on admission authorities to engage with parents and the wider community when setting their admission arrangements, in order to meet the needs of their local area;

improve the application and allocation process so that parents will only ever need to apply for a school place to the local authority in which they live;

prescribe national closing dates for primary and secondary applications, helping parents by creating a simpler, more uniform system;

improve the information parents receive on the admissions process, so they are fully engaged and informed; and

make improvements to admission forums so they are representative of parents and the local area, and consider the fairness of admission policies for that area.

The new provisions in the Education and Skills Act 2008 and the revised codes I have laid before Parliament today will help ensure that every parent has a fair chance of getting their child a place at a school of their choice, and that no parent or child will be disadvantaged by unfair admission arrangements.

In addition to presenting the revised codes to the House, I am pleased to announce today the appointment of a new chief schools adjudicator, following the retirement of Sir Philip Hunter at the end of the year. Ian Craig will take up post from April 2009, with Dr Elizabeth Passmore acting as interim chief schools adjudicator until this time. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Philip Hunter for all his hard work in ensuring that schools and local authorities comply with the mandatory provisions set out in the school admissions code, to help achieve fair access for all families.

I have placed a copy of the revised school admissions code and the school admission appeals code in the Libraries of both Houses.