Saturday, September 09, 2006

Guidelines aim to prevent covert selection

A new school admissions code is currently being considered which aims to stop schools cherry-picking the brightest pupils.

The amended admissions code means schools will not be able to give higher priority to those children

  • whose parents are more willing to support the ethos of the school or support the school financially;
  • according to the occupation or financial status of their parents;
  • according to the educational or social group or background of parents;
  • who [or whose parents] have particular interests, specialist knowledge or hobbies.

Under the new code interviews will also be proscribed.

Ministers hope to ensure these new measures are binding and an independent forum is to convened in order to scrutinise schools' performance every 12 months. It is well known, particularly amongst those of us in the education sector, that many schools will use whatever means they can to block the admission of some children. Interviews have long been a reliable tool in attempts to filter out children from the most chaotic families. It allows schools to run the rule over parents and decide whether a family is suitable for their school. And, of course, it also allows them to find out whether the child is from a single parent home.

Children in England and Wales who have a 'Statement of Special Educational Needs' can request a place in whichever school they choose, provided their local council deems it an appropriate placement. Often parents will choose high achieving faith schools which feature favourably in league tables. An application is then made by their local council and the chosen school's views are sought. It is not uncommon for faith schools to reject an application when there is no evidence that the family is sympathetic to that ethos. The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice does not allow schools to decline applications on such grounds, but schools none the less do. It must be hoped that the revision of the admissions code will force schools to adhere to the guidance and limit their ability to refuse entry on specious grounds.

The proposed changes are still at the consultation stage. I await the outcome with interest.

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