Exclusive: Radical change ‘needed on school admissions’

Former chief schools adjudicator Sir Philip Hunter says the “cracks are now appearing the system” and has used an article for Tes to outline the three measures he says are needed to improve it. Tes reports.

He wants the statutory school admissions code strengthened, greater powers for the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) and a role for Ofsted in examining schools’ admissions criteria.

Sir Philip’s call comes in the week that education secretary Damian Hinds pledged to change the school admissions code to help 1.6 million vulnerable “children in need”.  

But the former adjudicator believes much wider changes are needed to the way school admissions are policed.

Sir Philip used to have powers to change a school’s admission policy. For example, he could “rule that some admission criteria gave priority to already privileged families so should be changed”. He is concerned that adjudicators have lost those powers and that it is “now easier for schools to select pupils on the basis of their ability and social standing”.

Sir Philip’s fears about the current system are shared by another former schools adjudicator, Alan Parker. He told Tes that the 2011 Education Act had “at a stroke seriously undermined the ability” of schools adjudicators to enforce the school admissions code. 

“The previous powers allowed adjudicators who found flaws in a school’s admissions arrangements not only to correct them directly but ensure that they could not be changed back for up to three years thereafter,” he said.

Tes investigation in 2016 suggested a major lack of resources for adjudicators, with a 2,226 per cent increase in academy numbers between  2010 to 2015, accompanied by real terms rise in funding for school adjudicators of less than 5 per cent over the same period.

Sir Philip wants Ofsted to have powers to check that a school’s admission policy is compliant.

Read the full article and that of Philip Hunter Exclusive: Radical change ‘needed on school admissions’ 

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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