The proposed abolition of admission forums – the full response to our questionnaire

 

Comprehensive Future campaigns for fair admissions. During the passage of the Education Bill we intend to lobby for the retention of Admission Forums as we consider they make an important contribution to ensuring fair admissions. However we recognise that some changes may be needed which would improve the Forums’ ability to operate effectively so we sent a questionnaire to chairs of Admission Forums across the country.

The questionnaire

152 questionnaires were sent to local authorities for the chairs of admission forums

Responses were asked on

Name of authority (these not to be made public)

Is the forum for whole LA or do you have forum for parts of authority?

Do you have representatives of other authorities on the forum?

How many members?

Do they attend regularly?

Is the membership sufficiently representative?

How often do you meet?

What do you consider to be the value of the forum?

What are the current most important issues?

Do you have sufficient resources?

Are you satisfied with your powers and functions? Would you like more or fewer? Have you any recommendations and comments on improvements to admissions?

What is your reaction to proposed abolition?

Comments on the Local authority report to the adjudicator – comments on Chief School Adjudicator’s proposal to make its focus flexible and the requirements that the forum should possibly approve it and the Government proposal to end the requirement to report to the Adjudicator 

The response in detail

40 Responses have been received so far from –

10 Metropolitan Districts – coded – 1,4,7,16, 24,25,26,29,34,37,

16 Unitary authorities – coded – 2,3,5,6,14,15,20,21,22,23,27,28,30,33,36,38,

8 County Councils – coded – 8,9,10,11,12,17,18,31,

4 London Boroughs – coded – 13,19,32,35,39,40

 

Membership

97% admission forums covered the whole authority, 1 county council has a 3 part forum for different parts of the county.

10 forums include a representative from another authority

84% had a membership between 12 – 20       members, size varied between 10-26

84% of members attend regularly

Most forums (55%) meet termly but some meet twice a year others 4 to 5 times.

68% considered themselves representative but several mentioned aspects they would like to change.

Comments

Further representation from the range of school types in the city (would be better) (7)

We would certainly welcome some County Councillors. (10)

There are a few persistent non- attendees. A process of regular membership review has been agreed recently which will enable the Forum to consider whether changes in representation should be made and to ensure it has access to perspectives from each of the various communities within the LA. Also agreed to have input from groups with no permanent representation when issues of particular relevance to them are on the agenda (12).

We currently have no representatives from the Orthodox Jewish schools. Since the limit on the number of members was imposed our three schools, all Jewish but different strands, have not appointed one joint member. However their schools serve a particular group and their presence is not as important as other groups since there is little or no movement between them and the other schools.  We have representatives from most other schools/denominations apart from that. (13)

Will be reviewing membership after school reorganisation (15)

Problems recruiting parent representatives (17).

While we have good representation from local academies not all play a full role(19).

60% of secondary schools in the LA are academies therefore they form an unfair majority in the forum (20).

Peopled by groups each with their own agenda – attendance is very poor (22)

Need more regular attendance from parent representatives (23)

Difficult to recruit parent representatives and from BME communities (24)

A balance of heads and governors in each category would be an improvement ((27)

Last year we tried to have more parents (users) and less school (providers) but this is yet to be implemented fully. Largely it is over represented by schools (32)

Do not think there needs to be more members. The representation at present gives a good cross section of schools, academies, LA officers, dioceses. All those interested parties are sufficiently represented (34)

More community representation (35)

Resources

89% thought they had sufficient resources but some mentioned they expected this to be a problem in the future.

Comments

Some problems with services such as IT which seem to lack investment and people on the ground (10).

Resources to have a researcher/officer would improve the work, and relieve the burden on the admissions officer (27).

We did have resources to produce a comprehensive report but not any more (29).

What is the value of the admission forum?

An important arrangement for all admission authorities and stakeholders to discuss fair access issues. (1)

An opportunity to consider the effectiveness of admission arrangements (2)

As an independent body made up of local interest groups to monitor, advise and comment on the efficacy of local admission arrangements (3)

It has degree of independence from the LA (4)

Developing a policy which ensures the fairest system for all families (6)

An opportunity for scrutiny of the admission arrangements for schools across the city and an independent focal point for discussions on issues from a parental or non-LA/school perspective(7).

It provides a monitoring/scrutiny function for officers and schools who are their own admission authority. It ensures fairness throughout the process and for all concerned. Our forum is a widely based group without any vested interest which works and schools trust. It works and ensures fairness to all. Currently it is not complicated and it is fair. (8)

Ensures focussed consideration of the admissions process from a parent/child perspective. (9)

We provide an independent view between local authority and schools (10)

The admissions forum has an immensely important gate keeper role, in ensuring school admissions and aspects relating to this (such as school transport, supporting ethnic minority of EAFL parents to approach school admissions) are treated with equity and do not become victim to pushy parents or canny headteachers manipulating the system for their own gain. The forum strives for fairness within the forum in a professional and accountable way (11).

Comments on reports on changes of policy taking into account the diverse and rural communities in the County in particular those areas subject to demographic change ie social housing being built and relocation of families; strategic oversight of the fair access protocol ensuring decisions are made as equitably as possible taking into account the geographical distance between schools which have minimal transport in some areas. Essential that schools understand vulnerable children are admitted in a fair and equitable basis.  An opportunity for Diocesan representatives to express and listen to concerns of schools other than those with a religious character. (11).

It provides a unique opportunity to bring together representatives of various parties with an interest in school admission, including for this LA representatives of looked after children and children with special educational needs. Forums play an important role in helping to establish appropriate admission arrangements, including compliance with the School Admissions Code and focusing on equity of access for all children (12).

The opportunity to ensure that the mandatory provisions of the Code are complied with. The opportunity to discuss informally admission related issues and to influence/change arrangements that impact on fair access but are not contrary to the mandatory provisions of the Code (13).

Consistency of policy and consistency across the Borough ie the Diocese can respond in line with the Council, not do their own thing(14)

Promotes fairness in school admissions (15).

Shares information, allows schools to feedback (16)

In a very large LA they provide a valuable link to assess local views of ongoing and planned admission issues (17).

Opportunity to comment on the authorities’ admissions policy and arrangements and seek to improve them (18)

The forum provides challenge to admission authorities in the formulation of their admission policies and procedures, leading to arrangements which are fair, transparent and equitable. It also enables consensus to be built on sensitive issues such as the fair access policy. It also has an important role in monitoring the impact of admission policies. This helps significantly in strengthening local partnerships and accountability. At secondary level an important role in challenging other local authorities and academies admission practices and policies which are sometimes misleading and confusing for parents. (19)

To ensure that school admissions in the area is fair and equal access to all schools and academies within the area covered by the LA (20).

To promote agreement on admission issues and consider the effectiveness of the LA’s proposed coordinated admission arrangements; ensures we work together to try and give parents as far as possible their first choice of school: identify issues before they become a problem and take preventative action; an opportunity to share different perspectives and strive for consistency and shared ownership of tasks, many members are experienced and have a real understanding of the issues (21)

I don’t consider there to be any value in the forum – it duplicates task and generates an unnecessary workload (22)

To consider how well admission arrangements serve the interest of pupils in our area, gain agreement on admission issues and consider the effectiveness of admission arrangements locally (23)

An independent, knowledgeable scrutiny of the school admissions process (24)

The admissions forum provides an opportunity for the LA, schools, diocese and archdiocese, headteachers and school governors plus any other interested parties to discuss the effectiveness of local admission arrangements and advise admission authorities on ways in which their arrangements can be improved. The forum considers the admissions process for parents and the monitors Fair Access and equity issues. This has been invaluable and provides the essential overview of admission arrangements that is required to ensure equity within a LA area (25).

Raising local issues; keeping open lines of communication (26).

The constitution of the forum is in line with government regulations and so voting members re limited and the preference for the LA was in the case of competition for any category to favour governors over heads. As chair however, I have agreement of the Forum to have open meetings to which heads are welcome. We therefore have good attendance in terms of representation at meetings at most, if not all, categories of schools in the city. We consider this most important as it is the heads or their delegated staff who deal with admission issues on a day to day basis. Thus the last meeting had only 6 voting members but additional attendance from 4 other schools. Schools represented include secondary community, primary VA, primary VC, primary community, secondary academy. A head of a secondary voluntary aided Catholic school and Heads of 3 community secondary schools attended, one of which was under discussion as it has introduced selection by aptitude and another is negotiating with a school in a neighbouring authority over partnership arrangements.  This illustrates the most important function of the Forum to enable scrutiny of admission procedures and management at arms length from any one admission authority yet informed by a range of admission authorities. Such an opportunity does not exist any where else in the City (27).

It provides interchange of views from affected (or potentially affected) schools and considers difficult proposals. It is an effective safety valve – but more than that! (28)

Ensuring fairness; gathering different views on issues across the borough and across types of schools etc; ensuring all schools follow admission guidelines (29).

Information on how schools are achieving; how popular they are in terms of parental choice (30).

I have encouraged community groups facing difficulties obtaining places to address the forum to help our debates and recommendations; I see us an independent group – schools and communities based – who advise the council (31).

Addressing issues around ensuring sufficient places in particular areas; this has been made to work a bit better by ensuring the forum is focussed on the effect of changes to local schools’ admission arrangements to the areas of the LA as is listed in the official duties of the admission forum (32).

To allow open and informed discussion of any proposed changes to admission arrangements in the authority’s area for all schools and academies. To refer matters to the Schools Adjudicator if appropriate (33).

Monitoring and policing the admission policies for all admission authorities which are becoming more important as the number of schools which are their own admission authority and academies increase. This I feel will be a central role for the Forum as they admissions system becomes more fragmented.  Fair access protocols have been referred to the Forum. The Forum is a useful and recognised ‘sounding board’ to discuss admission issues in the district ie supply/demand of school places and gives a forum where all interested parties are involved such as parents, schools, LAs, diocese. If we did not have a forum or if it was voluntary then there is a potential that admissions issues would not be challenged effectively (34).

To ensure fair access to all schools within the LA. To monitor the FAP protocol and ensure all admission criteria are within the Code (35).

The forum is an independent body that ensures all admission authorities in the area comply with the Admissions Code of Practice and ensures all admissions have equal preference and therefore treated fairly.  The value is having someone who takes an independent unbiased view of how the admission authority functions and makes recommendations enables parents/children to have confidence that they are treated fairly when applying for school places. (36)

Ensures fairness and control of ‘rogue’ schools (eg attempting back door selection) visible equity. A low cost means of ensuring effective use of resource and fair access (37)

Alterations to catchments and conditions are a clear public process, nothing behind closed doors (38)

Provides an opportunity to bring together various parties who have an interest in school admissions to discuss updates and issues. Ability to monitor school admission arrangements (39).

Open access to discuss local admission arrangements considering future changes (40).

What will be the consequences of abolition?

The vast majority of those responding (95%) to the survey were strongly opposed to abolition, clear on the value of retaining a local representative forum to scrutinise local admission practices.

Comments

Abolition will lead to more intervention by the Secretary of State to resolve local issues.(1)

Monitoring/accountability would be lost. We shall suggests that forum continues to meet (2)

Reduced monitoring of fair access, especially for vulnerable pupils.(3)

Was working well before the forum, but with LAs becoming more undemocratic it is better to keep them (4)

Less transparency in the admissions system (5)

Schools will select by ability, the weak and disadvantaged will lose out (6)

Lack of a public forum for looking at admission issues for all the different types of schools across the city, and for collaborative working with diocesan bodies (7)

It would cause chaos and unfairness in a county like us and would lead to less transparency; there would be less local accountability, which would go against the concept of the Big Society (8).

Admission processes will become more school-centric rather than parent-centric. With the increase in own admission authority schools there appears even more need for an objective body to champion the rights of parents and children in the process. (9)

We would lose the ability of the Forum to depolarise contentious admissions issues in term of direct intervention and policy making (10).

A step back not a step forward and the effect of that setback may have a generational impact if that decision is taken hastily. Where will the accountability and regulation of good practice fall to? Academy status may lead to inequitable and unbalanced admissions. It would take away the ability to strongly influence changes to arrangements where these could be unfair (11).

We are fortunate in that the various parties with an interest in school admissions in the County are committed to working in partnership to secure fair admissions for all. The abolition of admission forums would result in the loss of a unique opportunity for representatives of these groups to come together in an atmosphere of co-operation and collaboration to work to achieve this ambition. Such opportunities are likely to be of increasing, rather than less importance, as more and more schools become their own admission authorities, creating a need for effective scrutiny of the fairness of admission arrangements, including compliance with the School Admissions Code. The concern would be that abolition would result in a more piecemeal approach losing an independent and representative body. This could conceivably impact on fairness and equity of access. That said if Forums are to be retained, then their role and advice must continue to have statutory weight to which admission authorities must have regard (12)

More fragmented admission arrangements which are hard for parents to understand; less exchange of information between schools prior to setting admission arrangements and a greater danger of breaches of the Code going undetected or unchallenged (13)

We would have to set it up again (14).

Issues around fairness and accountability (15)

Reduces the focus on admissions (16).

Although any areas would wish to continue with Forums anyway, there is a risk that their abolition would lead to inequitable, opaque admission arrangements that would in turn produce poor outcomes for many children and parents. Academies may elect not to participate in a voluntary Forum and there is a risk that they will become more isolated from the process and would not participate in protocols such as Fair Access (19).

It removes a tool of communication and sharing of views, there will be lack of coordination and debate within school admissions; it will be totally chaotic (20)

A lost opportunity for officer, parent representatives, elected members, headteachers and representatives of our diversity service early years team to meet and consider processes from our difference perspectives, discussion has led to many improvements in the admission processes. Figures for the authority show that. Loss of guidance on admissions criteria from the forum to the LA (21)

Loss of arena for local admission authorities to meet regularly and discuss local admission issues (23)

Loss of opportunity- who will assess quality and fairness of admission arrangements in the future? (24)

The removal of some of the safeguards that are in place where the Forum monitors and agrees arrangements and takes appropriate steps on behalf of groups of parents schools etc within a LA areas. There could be an increase in the number of issues/objections referred to the Office of the School Adjudicator by parents, local authorities and individual schools (25).

Loss of shared information (26).

A free for all on admissions. The adjudicator’s Annual Report shows how schools already get round the Code (27).

Parents/governors/teachers would lobby councillors/LAs rather than views being coordinated by the Forum (28).

An unfair free for all; also more chance of misunderstandings between different schools (29).

Chaos in allocating places (30).

Although only meeting 3 times a year the discussions around the table cross into churches, school sectors and public and give opportunities to know the direction of admissions and debate what will be right for our communities (31).

We are currently trying to establish a working arrangement with our schools to address place planning in face of the loss of the admissions forum but it will operate purely on influence(32).

Less chance for local admission authorities to be aware of and respond to any proposed changes to admission arrangements. Less discussion of such proposals leading to potentially more local conflict and fragmentation (33).

No recognised body to oversee and review admission authorities in the area. If the forums are to be voluntary then the Code needs a clear role for LAs in undertaking these responsibities; The consequences could be schools manipulating admission arrangements to work for them instead of parents. The ethos of the Code is that parents choose schools not the other way round, this may change without the Forum. The Forum is necessary in order for the LA to continue to challenge school policies and practices which are likely to disadvantage vulnerable children, young people and their families. In particular at this time when we are seeing an increasing number of schools converting to academies (34).

Less fairness and scrutiny. This body should be an on going voice for the community it serves (35).

It has taken some time to get all admission authorities to practice good practice and in our authority the system is working well for all. With no monitoring system in place the risk is the admission authorities would revert back to practices that may not be fair to all. I appreciate that not al authorities have an admission forum that works effectively however guidance should be given to those forums to help to undertake their role effectively. Parents and children should have the right to be treated fairly by admission authorities and without admission forums this may not happen. (36)

Opening/closing schools due to fashion or politics rather than logic/need (37).

Lack of public faith in the process (38).

Less communication between local authorities and admission authorities, This will inevitably cause confusion (39)

We are happy to have a forum on a voluntary basis (40)

Issues considered by the forum

Planning to respond to consultation on changes in the Code (1)

In year admissions, admission policies at VA schools, impact of BSF on schools and parents (2)

Equality of access to more vulnerable pupils to all categories of schools; looked after children; pressure on primary school places; admission priorities for primary places; fair access protocol (3)

Levels of satisfaction with local schools are very high (4)

Lack of school places (5)

Some schools bypassing admission procedures and hence accepting pupils illegally; cross border ‘dumping’ of unruly pupils by academies; no managed move protocol (6)

Need for expansion of primary school places; changes to school transport policy (7)

Looked after children from other areas; due to the geography of the county we have issues regarding rural areas; small schools; distances between schools to travel and possible disadvantage to some children; pressures on budgets; in year admissions. There is also concern about academies in the future. (8)

Responding to the academies’ agenda; admission of yr 11 pupils; trying to minimise late primary applications; shortage of primary places (9)

Catchment areas and planned admission numbers, these can be contentious issues and the forum’s views help the situation. In addition we are monitoring training and operation of appeal panels (10).

A proposal by a neighbouring authority which if successful would have disadvantaged some children in the County, the forum raised concerns with the Adjudicator (11).

Likely impact of academies and free schools; balance between supporting LA policy of encouraging greater use of on-line applications (with the consequent resource savings) whilst ensuring that the children of those who cannot or choose not to use the internet are not disadvantaged: number of preferences parents are able to express, should it be increased? Appropriate sanctions against those who make fraudulent applications (12).

Ensuring that ‘fairness’ at secondary transfer is as evenly distributed as possible. Our schools’ locations mean that some parents have little choice whereas some have quite a few schools to choose between. We have contributed to most schools changing to the same number of bands for the banding tests and that the banding schools deciding that children take only one test at their primary school, so only tested once. (13)

Fairness and transparency (14).

Major reorganisation of secondary provision, all schools commissioned and either foundation or academies (15).

Fair access protocol for children with challenging needs; in year application system; getting info on pupils who transfer; families moving from school to school  (16)

Rising primary numbers; place planning; strategic and training issues arising from the Codes (17)

Making sure parents meet deadlines for admissions through an adequate media campaign (18).

Population increase has led to significant pressure on primary places this year. Since the LA assumed responsibility for coordination of primary admissions, this has proved a challenging task. (19)

Academies failing to provide fair access particularly over in year admissions (20).

Ensuring we maintain high level of first choices (98%) monitoring effect of increasing choice out of catchment; monitoring impact of early years changes (15 hrs flexible offer) working with own admission authority schools including academies to try to ensure parents have the information they need; monitoring information to parents to ensure it is clear and accurate; trying to ensure all schools are operating within the spirit of putting the children first Monitoring the admissions of children who arrive in the LA area outside the normal admission round (21)

Streamlining the coordinated in-year admissions process to ensure pupils are placed quickly (23)

Effect of growing number of academies and free schools; continuing pressure on popular schools (24)

Review of current measurement system used for distance criteria and tie breaker categories Full review of current admission arrangements and criteria used for community and voluntary controlled schools in different areas of with a (metropolitan district)  view to simplifying process for parents/carers and administration of offers.(25)

Increase in academies and ensuring they fit into fair access protocol (26)

Changes in admissions criteria; reports on in year admissions; problems with on-line applications; objection to selection by aptitude and now monitoring its effect and that of long established aptitude testing in another school; shortage of primary places; travel costs for children from disadvantaged areas going beyond local school; infant school academy; in year protocol unsigned; poaching by schools in neighbouring authority after start of school year; time and costs of appeals; administrative burden on admissions team ((27)

Having grammar, comprehensive and secondary modern in the same area puts pressure on primary. There is over provision in grammar and not enough in primary (28).

The closing of a secondary school and consequent changes in priority areas (29).

Marked difference in the best and worst OFSTED reports; some schools are oversubscribed some aren’t full (30).

Lack of school places in primary sector and popular schools having to turn local families away (31).

Primary school places in the fact of an ever increasing birth rate; finding primary schools prepared to expand in the right areas; as an authority with a wide mix of grammars, faith, single sex and comprehensive schools we have a big problem with pupils finding places in their nearest schools; finding agreement over mid year admissions, exclusions and placing children with SEN (32)

In 2009/2010 it was whether one of the academies should introduce banding within its admission criteria (33).

Pupil place planning and academies/foundation schools and possible changes in their admissions policies (34)

Lack of primary places; increase in volume of in year applications within a very mobile population (35)

Ensuring that children in the catchment area can obtain a place in their local school (36).

Competition due to low cohort and free schools/academies means aggressive ‘poaching’. (37)

Insufficient schools places within walking distance of ‘better’ schools, a reliance on a neighbouring borough to provide school places for them (38)

Trying to satisfy local parental demand given shortage of places at our primary schools and uneven demand at secondary school level (40)

Satisfaction with powers and functions? Any barriers to working effectively?

58% were satisfied with powers of the forum. 79% were satisfied with the functions. 46% reported there were barriers to their effective working.

Comments

LA supports the forum, but independence would be encouraged through separate funding and independent clerking (3)

There are no clear channels to make recommendations to cabinet members; academies are a barrier to the work (6)

Concern about academies (8)

There is a need for more powers to challenge admission arrangements which compromise the effectiveness of local schemes or which complicate the system for parents.  Need a function to link the effect of transport policies on admissions patterns and preference (9)

The forum should have the authority to consider and recommend change to policies. (10)

Some representatives do not understand the powers they have (11).

Transport in terms of cost and where there is lack of provision. This affects the ability to ensure vulnerable children are admitted equitably across the County, enabling them to have a new start in a high achieving school (11).

Although the Forum can make recommendations to schools, and schools must have regard to the advice of the Forum, this is not a strong enough measure to influence schools that do not wish to change their arrangements. We would only refer an objection to the adjudicator if there was a clear breach of the Code. In most cases our discussions aim at improving the overall situation for parents, although no schools individually break the Code. For this reason it can be difficult for us to make them change their arrangements.  Our work might be more effective if the Forum could make recommendations to schools which were binding on the schools subject to an appeal to the Adjudicator. Further the Adjudicator should be empowered to uphold the view of the Forum if he/she was satisfied that the recommendation was fair to the schools concerned and would improve the operation of admissions in the borough overall- Adjudicator should not be limited to simply deciding whether a particular school’s proposed arrangements were in breach of the Code. That way the onus would be on schools to challenge a recommendation of the Forum rather than on the Forum to seek to persuade the Adjudicator that there was a breach of the Code. To ensure that the power of the Forum was not exercised too readily provision could be made so that the power was not exercised except when approved by a particular majority.  There should be more opportunities to look into the admission arrangements of al schools in the LA jointly and the effect they have on each other. Even if individual schools’ arrangements are fair, the overall effect may be disadvantageous for some parents. It should be possible to rectify this by making schools cooperate on their arrangements (13)

Rulings by the adjudicator have to be interpreted, not always clear (14).

Can’t add more functions without giving more resources. Resources are tight, especially for in year admissions which are relentless.  (16)

Lack of powers to make schools comply if they take pupils off role /exclude illegally; Work load; primary closing date is too late (15/1) increasing workload; there should be financial consequences on schools for unlawful practice (17).

We would like greater powers to ensure our recommendations are adhered to (18)

A fairer balance of representation: an enforcement role; increased autonomy of schools means powers are reduced; no local agreement on the fair access protocol (20)

Coordination with academies who never come to forum meetings (22)

The Forum could be more effective if it had enhanced powers of scrutiny and decision making more aligned to the powers of the OSA; more overview and scrutiny with regard to individual admission authorities would be welcome (25)

Important that all schools fully engaged (26)

Forums should be able to direct an admission authority to change its practice and only then if it refuses, go to the adjudicator. (27).

Possibly the most difficult situations brought about by academies could be reviewed (28).

Difficulty in ensuring fair practices ; changes in the composition of the Forum and remit, dictated from above in 2008/9 have led to a new start with new members so it is difficult to be as effective as our old forum, until new members bed in (29).

A clearer understanding of the ‘black spots’ earlier and encouraging an ‘outside voice’ (31).

Need to be able to insist that schools work together to make a fair schools offer to all the children in the borough or at least to those living closest even if that is in the neighbouring borough; satisfied with functions as long as schools understand what the forum is for; currently most think it is somewhere to defend their admission policy there is a lack of authority to request that schools coordinate their admission arrangements or change them (32)

Schools becoming their own admission authority can be an issue because it moves the balance of responsibilities which can be fed by self interest and an isolated view of admissions. It can fragment an already complex area whereby a parent’s ability to understand a vast array of different policies can be impossible (34).

The forum would be more effective if not restricted by ‘political’ influences. In some LAs elected members re the chair and therefore it becomes another arm of the democratic process ie panel/cabinet, more direct powers to community voice needed. The forum should not have elected members or political representation (35).

The function could be made stronger making it mandatory for admission authorities to have regard to the recommendations made by Admission Forums. Forum should be monitoring the appeals process as well (36).

Insufficient funds for the LA generally and the public perception that LA is paying for neighbouring borough’s education (because of out borough pupils) Need less reliance on statutory deadlines.(38)

The Greenwich judgement denies local parents getting first choice of school as places are taken by children outside the Borough (40)

Views on LA report and recommendations of OSA?

A good health check and serves a useful purpose in promoting good practice and improving in other areas (2)

Report should be retained, discussed and reviewed by the Forum, but not approved, it is a LA report. If the Forum disapproves any aspect of the report it can advise the LA and include its concerns in its own report to the School Adjudicator (3)

Agree with the changes proposed, simpler (4)

Need to keep it. The forum should produce its own report, this helps the forum ensure continued fairness. (8)

Change would mean that judgements would be limited to headline preference figures without any local context/issues which would be unrepresentative of the whole process. It would also remove one of the few routes for LAs and forums to highlight specific admission issues to central government via the Adjudicator (9).

Government  is wrong, an independent overview is always valuable (10).

While sympathetic to the view that receiving two very similar reports is labour intensive and unnecessarily repetitive, it is essential that the Authority and the Forum have an effective dialogue and that this is recorded. In our authority the Forum comments on and adds to the draft report to the Adjudicator (11).

Although a reduction in the administrative burden on schools and the LA is generally to be welcomed, care must be taken to ensure that the Chief Schools Adjudicator has access to the information needed to enable him to perform his role effectively. All schools including academies must be obliged to respond to requests for information from the LA that are relevant to the admissions process (12).

Most of the information is in the public domain and accessible anyway. For this reason it has sometimes felt like duplication. The Admission forum has read and approved the LA’s report to the Schools Adjudicator every year but has not made nay amendments/additions.  This is because we work closely together. It might be useful if the report made the Adjudicator aware of local issues not in breach of the Code but that make admissions disadvantageous for some parents(13).

LA report is a control mechanism and promotes accountability (15)

The forum report has traditionally covered more areas than were required in the report to the Adjudicator. It is our intention to continue with it even thought it will not be required in future. Flexibility in the form of the report is welcomed, but we believe that not requiring the production of any report at all is a retrograde step (19).

The LA is required to oversee admissions therefore the report would be essential documented evidence (20).

Sorry to see go, has been useful exercise (21)

Difficult to see what purpose it has (23)

We always complete a report, reporting requirement must continue (24)

The report currently allows local issues to be considered and recommendations made by the admissions forum. These local issues that have been considered are included in the Annual Report. The removal of this report may lead to unresolved issues for parents,  individual schools etc and will increase objections and referrals to the OSA (25).

Not sure it is useful (26)

Support the adjudicator’s proposal re the report (27)

I think this is a backward step. A cash strapped LA might adopt unfair practices if they cut costs; some form of report, with contributions from Forum members should be The (29) admissions forum worked well when an independent report was required (from the forum?). Officers were thoroughly scrutinised and practices carefully considered for fairness and efficiency) required (29).

I would agree with the schools adjudicator’s findings. Our forum declined to produce its own report but did look at the report produced by the LA. Some of the information was useful (32).

I think the report should be discussed by the admission forum who could add comments before it goes to the adjudicator (33).

The LA report to the forum on local issues therefore no need then to complete a further report to the adjudicator. When local issues cannot be resolved the forum/LA and parents can appeal to the adjudicator. Why the need to produce a LA report to the adjudicator? The report should still be required by commissioned by the forum for local purposes only and to understand where preference is being met and how admission processes work locally. There is no need for the LA to produce a report and the Forum to produce one too. This is duplication. What is the audience for the Chief Adjudicator’s final report?(34)

LA report should remain (35)

Comments from the Chief Adjudicator seem a sensible way forward. I believe that the local authority/admissions forum should report on admissions if there are issues however should not have to if the system is working well(36).

Who will ‘police’ decisions?(37)

Agree as long as not more bureaucracy (38)

Admission issues are discussed at the forum therefore an end to the local authority report will be desirable (39).

We support abolition of reporting requirement (40)

Any other comments/recommendations?

The powers of the Chief Adjudicator should be strengthened and to include policing the Code(1).

The Government should take care not to oversimplify the Schools Admissions Code. There needs to be top priority for children in care to all schools, including voluntary aided faith schools; school adjudicator to deal with complaints about all schools; stronger powers of direction for local authorities especially with regard to vulnerable pupils (3)

This is an inevitable consequence of the marketisation of education for ideological purposes. The current system is fair and cost effective (6).

Concerns have been raised about the increasing numbers of appeals for Key Stage 1 which is costing considerable time and money for the LA and own admission authority schools. Whilst parents have a right of appeal, they find it is effectively blocked by the class size legislation that prohibits classes of more than 30 pupils. Although we recognise that there should be some means of checking to see there has been no maladministration, offering a full appeal hearing process is inappropriate in the way that is raises expectations for parents and incurs considerable costs for schools and authorities. (7)

There should be a national publicity campaign re admissions closing dates, particularly for primaries (9).

I think our process is fair and with IT up to speed very easy. However given the constraints of buildings, catchment areas and class size sadly there will always be unhappy parents (10).

A comprehensive national timetable for the admissions process would simplify matters for schools which receive applications from parents living in more than one local authority area and therefore have involvement in multiple coordinated schemes.  The statutory national closing dates have been a positive development but the fact that there is no primary school place offer day (unlike secondary) remains an issue. A prescribed primary offer day would address this situation, although any such prescription must allow a reasonable gap between the secondary and primary process (12).

Holding appeals panels to account; Feedback from the adjudicator on documents submitted by the LA would be welcomed (14)

VA and other own admission authority schools should get a clear policy and then the LA admissions team could administer it; the admissions criteria should be simplified, too many schools (not in our area) but where resident apply have very complex admission policies (16)

Get rid of statutory primary closing date (17)

Forums should only be abolished if they cannot be given more power (18).

Coordination of all phases of admissions has ensured that the admission process has become simpler and fairer for parents, the LA  operates an area wide banding scheme. A generic test across local authorities would make the process better for children at secondary transfer and would prevent the need for them to sit multiple tests (19).

There is a crucial need for in year admissions to remain with the LA, it has been invaluable since its inception. (20)

Choice adviser is really helping parents, attending many open nights (21)

Where admission authorities adhere to the Code there should be no room for unfair practice – as an LA we monitor our own admission authorities arrangements to date we have not had to refer any of them to the adjudicator. There needs to be no right of appeal under Infant Class Size regulation or an alternative. The Current arrangement allows parents to believe they have a chance of winning. A review of individual cases may be more appropriate (22).

Need a simpler admissions code and simpler legislation (23)

Whenever demand exceeds places available, someone will always be disappointed (24)

Clarify the Admissions Code for the LA with regard to consultation and LA role of co-ordination and scrutiny plus produce a separate admissions code that clarifies responsibilities for own admission authority schools (25)

All schools in the LA area should have the same admissions criteria; a small budget to carry out investigations where it suspects the Code is being broken (27).

We believe the system of appeals is not satisfactory – no-one from the Forum is involved (28).

Changing location of schools (ie equal distribution across the borough) would improve admissions (29).

Creating a primary sector to be one stage year 1-6 across the county. Making sure parents do understand the process of selection in a world of change – academies, E Bacc etc (31).

LAs and parents should retain the right to refer schools to the adjudicator if they are unhappy with the admission policies and the adjudicator should retain the right to direct on their own policies. I am deeply unhappy with the centralising of these decisions to the S of S. I don’t have a firm solution (on how to improve admissions) but I do think that everyone should have a school if they name it first they stand an almost guaranteed chance of entry. There should not be a post code lottery when it comes to schools. No-one should be unduly displaced in their choice of school by people coming from further away (32).

Developing an improved approach to responding to infant class size appeals; now more schools becoming admission authorities the LA must remain at the centre of the system through co-ordination in order to provide a simple application process for parents. It is therefore crucial that the forum exists to challenge policies. Fair access protocols work well in distributing and placing difficult applications. They should be retained and academies/free schools expected to participate. A simplified admissions code would be welcome but not at the price of allowing schools/academies a free hand. The Code contains many do’s and don’ts which we find extremely useful and clear on what can and cannot be done. Do not oversimplify the Code for parents it is a technical document for reference and appeal panel. Any changes need to be robust and provide a degree of power to enforce the Code with those schools who are their own admission authority. A guide for parents should be parent friendly but the burden on LAs on its contents has increased greatly as Codes have been revised and become more technical. The DfE/Schools adjudicator compliance exercise is not fruitful and is carried out year on year by LAs for the forum. These should not be carried out in future. What is purpose of consultation on relevant area? Consultation on admission arrangement – why consult only when there are changes? Annual consultation on policies that have not changed serves no logical purpose? We receive limited parental response? Publishing notices when setting an admissions number below that indicated by net capacity is costly and produces little response (34).

Admissions have vastly improved in recent years, thanks to the Code (35)

The system of equal preference works well in within our authority but there is not always consistency between authorities and this can have a negative effect on children wishing to attend a school in another authority (36).

School Admissions Code simplified and more clear guidelines in consultation with local authorities and admission authorities (39)

The function of the forum could be extended to look at school holistically such as extended schools (39).