Call for new body to enforce school admissions code

Violations of school admissions policies are widespread, the House of Lords heard

An independent enforcement body of the school admissions code has been called for following concerns about an increasingly fragmented system.

A Labour peer has called for more regulation of standards after chief adjudicator Elizabeth Passmore unveiled a host of problems with schools acquiring academy status and running their own admissions.

Since the chief adjudicator’s annual report, it has been revealed that ministers are considering handing back some of academies’ powers on school admissions to local authorities,

But Labour’s Lord Watson of Invergowie still thinks more can be done. He said: “Given that the schools adjudicator’s most recent report highlighted that violations of the school admissions code were widespread, noble Lords may not regard it as a coincidence that there is currently no body charged with enforcing and monitoring that code.

“The establishment of an independent body with responsibility for enforcement of the code is overdue. If that were done, there might be less concern about the banning of organisations that can raise questions.”

Ministers intend to limit those who can object to breaches of the admissions code – and government whip Baroness Evans of Bowes Park has stressed that these restrictions are needed.

She said: “We want the schools adjudicator to focus on concerns that parents might have about the admission arrangements of their local school. We also want to free schools from bureaucracy so that they can focus on delivering excellent education.

“We propose that only local parents and local authorities be able to refer objections about a school’s admissions arrangements. That change will be subject to full public consultation and parliamentary approval.

Lady Evans added: “It is not great for parents that it now takes 49 days for them to hear the result of their objection – that has risen from 26 days. We want the schools adjudicator – she herself has suggested it – to limit those who can make an objection, to put parents at the centre.

“We want to ensure that parents are at the heart of this process, which is why we want to ensure that adjudications are not held up by the need to consider large numbers of objections referred by interest groups.

“Unfortunately, because of some campaigns, parents now have to wait longer for the outcome of their appeals, and that cannot be right.”

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