The new School Admissions Code is 61 pages compared to the previous version which was 138 pages. Ideally I would like to see the number of pages cut to nil – state schools should have the same freedom to set their own admissions policy that independent schools have. But the change is huge progress on the previous Ed Balls version – which included all sorts of meddling demands.
The most important change is that schools will be able to expand – without this being thwarted by council bureaucrats anxious, whether for ideological reasons of administrative convenience, to force enough parents to send their children to bad schools to prevent the bad schools from closing. Of new schools opening up get the most attention but allowing good schools to expand is also critical to parental choice.
Among the other changes are that all 800,000 primary school places to be offered on a single day, adopted children to be given special priority.
Also the changes will:
- Allow schools to give some priority to children of those staff who have been employed for at least two years or who have been recruited to meet a school’s particular skills shortage.
- Allow schools to take twins and other multiple-birth children, and children of armed forces personnel, into infant classes even if it takes the class over the 30-child legal limit.
- Allow academies and Free Schools to prioritise pupils from the poorest backgrounds.
- Introduce a new in-year admissions process so fewer children face delays in finding a new school. Parents will apply direct to schools, rather than having to go through a local authority. More than half of respondents agreed with this proposal. In-year applications happen when a child moves to a new area.
- Ban councils from using area-wide “lotteries” as the principal method of allocating places across a local authority area.
- Cut bureaucracy by requiring admission authorities to consult on arrangements only every seven years, rather than every three years, if no changes are proposed. This was supported by more than half of all respondents.
- Allow anyone to object to admissions arrangements. Currently only a very restricted list of people can do so.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:
The new Admissions Codes are slimmer, less repetitive and easier to read and use. For these reasons alone they should help to reduce the stress confronting parents as they navigate the schools admissions system and find a place for their child.
But the new codes also remove the restriction on good schools being able to expand if they wish – a freedom that will provide more good school places.
The new Codes help schools to attract and retain the best teachers and school support staff by allowing them to ensure their own children have a place at their school.
All these measures and the priority we are giving to children who are adopted from the care system are all designed to help raise the standard in our schools and close the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds.