Decision Time : A Plan for Fair Admissions
Comprehensive Future has produced a plan for school admissions reform which is co-authored by journalist and campaigner Fiona Millar and former School Adjudicator, Alan Parker. It offers a detailed plan to make access to schools fairer.
Over three quarters of England’s secondary schools are their own admissions authorities – up from around a third only fifteen years ago. We now have a complicated school system with academies, free schools, City Technology Colleges, UTCs and studio schools, all with the freedom to set and manage their own admissions criteria, alongside our surviving community schools. As Fiona Millar points out, “The pressure of external performance measures has inevitably led to some schools finding more and more ingenious ways of using their admissions freedoms to change their intakes. Selection by faith, aptitude, catchment area, feeder school and complicated banding systems which seek to group children into different ability bands, can lead to some schools engineering themselves more socially selective, aspirant and high achieving intakes than other neighbouring institutions”
Comprehensive Future proposes a new local body, an ‘Area Admission Authority’ to ensure a more equitable and efficient system for overseeing school admissions.
The key points of the Comprehensive Future plan are:
- No school should fix its own admissions criteria.
- No school should manage its own admissions.
- A new body should be set up to consult and reach consensus across a given community about what fair, objective, transparent admissions look like locally. That body should subsequently manage admissions for all schools.
- There would be a clear role for the Office of the School Adjudicator in policing the system on behalf of parents and the community.
We believe that this plan would mean that parent choice and fairness would trump institutional advantage. The outcome of the local set of agreed admission arrangements should, as far as possible, ensure more balanced intakes between schools and that no individual school’s arrangements should impact disproportionately on another local school.
These are detailed proposals but the detail matters. We hope these simple but radical suggestions will help move the debate forward on behalf of all families and in the wider interests of society.