The School Admissions Code 2014
Head of Employment Law and Education specialist Kuba Strycharczyk discusses the Schools Admissions Code.
The School Admissions Code has been issued under Section 84 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (‘SSFA 1998’). The Code applies to admissions to all maintained schools in England. It should be read alongside the School Admission Appeals Code and other guidance and law that affect admissions and admission appeals in England.
The purpose of the Code is to ensure that all school places for maintained schools (excluding maintained special schools) and Academies are allocated and offered in an open and fair way. The Code has the force of law.
The Code came into force on 19th December 2014 and, unless otherwise stated, applied with immediate effect. It applies to admission arrangements determined in 2015 for admission in school year 2016/17 and any future years. It is the responsibility of admission authorities to ensure that their admission arrangements are compliant with the Code. Where a school is the admission authority, this responsibility falls to the governing body or Academy Trust.
All schools must have admission arrangements that clearly set out how children will be admitted, including the criteria that will be applied if there are more applications than places at the school. Admission arrangements are determined by admission authorities.
The 2014 Code does not differ significantly from the 2012 Code. The most significant changes relate to pupils who attract a relevant premium. The Code allows all state-funded schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for pupil premium or service premium funding. More specifically, the Code also allows admission authorities of primary schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for the early years pupil premium, the pupil premium or the service premium who attend a nursery which is established and run by the school. These changes are part of the Government’s policy to allow fair access.
There will be no requirement for admission authorities to include such a priority in their admission arrangements. Admission authorities considering such changes should seek early advice to ensure that the proper consultation process is followed and that changes will not then be open to challenge.
There are also minor changes to amend the timetable by which admission arrangements must be consulted upon, determined and published by admission authorities, and for resolving disputes regarding the lawfulness of admission arrangements, and to clarify the provisions relating to the admission of summer born children who wish to delay entry into reception.
All schools must have due regard to their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, and review their policies and practices to make sure these meet the requirements of the Act
Whilst the Human Rights Act 1998 confers a right of access to education, this right does not extend to securing a place at a particular school. Admission authorities, however, do need to consider parents’ reasons for expressing a preference when they make admission decisions, though this may not necessarily result in the allocation of a place. These might include, for example, the parents’ rights to ensure that their child’s education conforms to their own religious or philosophical convictions (as far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure).
Where a local authority considers that an Academy will best meet the needs of any child, it can ask the Academy to admit that child but has no power to direct it to do so. The local authority and the Academy will usually come to an agreement, but if the Academy refuses to admit the child, the local authority can ask the Secretary of State to intervene.
For further information on school admissions, contact Kuba Strycharczyk.
About the author
Kuba is an employment law expert and Partner at Burnetts.
Published: Friday 24th April 2015