Manchester council told high school admissions policy breaches government guidelines

The Manchester Evening News is reporting that Manchester council’s high school admissions policy has been changed after being found to be in breach of government rules following a complaint from parents…

It could mean children living outside Manchester may get priority over the city’s own primary pupils in the race for a high school place.

After the complaint, the Schools Adjudicator deemed the town hall’s current admissions policy to be in breach of government guidelines.

In future, children living closest to their chosen secondary school will be given a spot – behind those in care, those with medical or special needs and those with a brother or sister at the school – regardless of whether they are already at a primary in the city or not…

Councillor Jeff Smith, one of those in charge when the original approach was introduced, said it had been ‘fair and transparent’ and had worked well.

“It’s very disappointing that we’re having to make this change and upset a system that’s worked really well for Manchester since 2004,” he said…

Council leader Sir Richard Leese said the problem reflected an improvement in Manchester’s high schools, meaning they are now more in demand…

More at: Manchester council told high school admissions policy breaches government guidelines

 

It’s not absolutely clear to me what Manchester Council has been doing wrong based on this report, and I cannot find anything on the Office of the Schools Adjudicator website, but I guess it is giving priority based on distance alone above the other factors mentioned. Any thoughts on the implications of this judgement?

 

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Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove More confusion caused by politicians tinkering; it happens so often yet politicians can’t seem to put two and two together

  2. Janet2

    @andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Until the report from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator has been published, it’s impossible (as Tony says in the main article) to know how Manchester Council violated the Schools Admission Code.

    The Code exists to stop schools which are their own admission authorities (ie academies, VA schools) from having unfair admission criteria (eg asking for unspecified ‘practical help’ to the church; giving priority to children from attached nurseries; asking for donations).  In this case, OSA has applied to the rules to a local authority which is responsible for setting admission criteria for LA-maintained schools.

  3. Britinfloridaus

    Well it proves that it is not only academies, free schools and VA schools that are non compliant with the code. The odd thing is the most well known school admission judicial review is the 1990 Greenwich judgement. Greenwich tried to do the same, give priority to Greenwich residents. It was ilegal then and remains so today. Just how Manchester have got away with it for so long is unbelievable.

  4. Britinfloridaus

    Well it proves that it is not only academies, free schools and VA schools that are non compliant with the code. The odd thing is the most well known school admission judicial review is the 1990 Greenwich judgement. Greenwich tried to do the same, give priority to Greenwich residents. It was ilegal then and remains so today. Just how Manchester have got away with it for so long is unbelievable.

  5. Britinfloridaus

    The code applies to ALL schools not just non maintained schools. The code has been around since 2003 being updated at intervals. Do you really think that local authorities do not try to bend the rules too? Manchester is just the most recent example

  6. Janet2

    Britinfloridaus You’re right – the Code does apply to all schools.  I should have written ‘The Code exists to stop schools which are their own admission authorities (ie academies, VA schools) and local authorities from having unfair admission criteria…’

    However, until recently it was possible to search decisions made by OSA to find out which complaints had been upheld/partially upheld against different categories of admission authorities: academies, VA schools, free schools, local authorities etc.

    Very, very few were complaints were upheld against local authorities (see below).  The majority were against schools which were their own admission authorities.

    It is no longer possible to do this or I would have done so.  Why? Because the OSA site is now on GovUK and the search facility outlined above is no longer available.

    However, there are 581 decisions on the new OSA site.  Only 12 of these relate to LAs.  3 complaints were upheld; 2 were partially upheld.  7 were not.  The data is available here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications?departments%5B%5D=office-of-the-schools-adjudicator

  7. Janet2

    Britinfloridaus You’re right – the Code does apply to all schools.  I should have written ‘The Code exists to stop schools which are their own admission authorities (ie academies, VA schools) and local authorities from having unfair admission criteria…’

    However, until recently it was possible to search decisions made by OSA to find out which complaints had been upheld/partially upheld against different categories of admission authorities: academies, VA schools, free schools, local authorities etc.

    Very, very few were complaints were upheld against local authorities (see below).  The majority were against schools which were their own admission authorities.

    It is no longer possible to do this or I would have done so.  Why? Because the OSA site is now on GovUK and the search facility outlined above is no longer available.

    However, there are 581 decisions on the new OSA site.  Only 12 of these relate to LAs.  3 complaints were upheld; 2 were partially upheld.  7 were not.  The data is available here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications?departments%5B%5D=office-of-the-schools-adjudicator

  8. Janet2

    Britinfloridaus The Admission Code has only been in force since 2012.  The present Manchester decision would be against the updated Code (2014).  As you say, councils haven’t been able to prioritise pupils living in the LA for decades.  But councils can prioritise according to distance and they can name feeder schools for particular schools.

    We don’t know much about the complaint against Manchester because the decision hasn’t been published yet.  But an earlier judgement (October 2011) which mentions the Greenwich judgement allowed Manchester to name all its maintained primary schools as feeder schools.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/304598/ada2147_manchester_schools_-_12_october_2011.pdf

  9. Britinfloridaus

    The first admissions code came out in 2003. I think the next one was 2005 then 2008 and then 2010 and then 2012 which has been replaced by a 2014 edition publish on 19 dec 14. Feeder schools are acceptable if their selection is transparent. But to list all schools in a borough or city area is not. It breaks the Greenwich judgement.

  10. Britinfloridaus

    The first admissions code came out in 2003. I think the next one was 2005 then 2008 and then 2010 and then 2012 which has been replaced by a 2014 edition publish on 19 dec 14. Feeder schools are acceptable if their selection is transparent. But to list all schools in a borough or city area is not. It breaks the Greenwich judgement.

  11. Britinfloridaus

    To be fair all LAs would consult their education solicitor. Own admission authorise don’t, it cost money they don’t have. Also LAs don’t play around at the margins which some schools do.

  12. Janet2

    Britinfloridaus But, as already stated, OSA allowed the naming of all
    Manchester schools as feeders in their 2011 judgement.An objection was raised to this part of
    Manchester’s admission criteria:
    ‘Category 4:….children who attend a Manchester LA primary
    school prioritised according to the distance between their permanent home address
    and the school, measured in a straight line.’
    The adjudicator did not uphold the objection.  He said the arrangements did not ‘depend
    directly on the place of residence’ (ie Manchester) because some children in
    Manchester’s primaries schools could be out-of-county pupils.   It was attendance at a Manchester primary
    school which was prioritised NOT whether the child lived in Manchester.  The adjudicator ruled the arrangements were ‘not
    inconsistent with the Greenwich judgment’ and concluded:
    ‘In the light of the foregoing considerations, I have
    concluded that the arrangements made by Manchester City Council are consistent
    with the requirements of the Code and do not require amendment’.
    That was in 2011.  It
    appears the adjudicator has now ruled the arrangements ARE inconsistent with
    the Code (which has been amended since 2011). 
    But we won’t know that until the judgement is published.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/304598/ada2147_manchester_schools_-_12_october_2011.pdf

  13. Britinfloridaus

    Janet2 Britinfloridaus Janet, all this does is confirm to me that the present Adjudicator has a very different approach, often going for fishing.  If something is not there, she will say that it is not “clear, fair or objective”. 

    I will give an example.  There is nothing in the code that says a primary school cannot give priory to nursery school children.  However, Dr Passmore says that it unfair on those who do not want a nursery education and is therefore somewhat subjective.

    Although there new code does not refer to nursery places directly, it does indirectly when referring to the pupil premium.  I await what she has to say about that!

  14. Janet2

    Britinfloridaus Janet2 OSA said prioritising children from an attached nursery indirectly discriminated against those children whose parents were unwilling or unable to send their child to the attached nursery.  They may have applied for a place but there was none, for example, or they’ve only just moved into the area.  Nursery education isn’t compulsory and OSA said it was unfair to discriminate against parents who didn’t send their child to nursery.

    However, that was under the 2012 Code.  The 2014 one is more confusing (as you say) and will need to be tested by mounting an objection.  For example,para 1.9(e) refers to: 

    ‘…children from the school nursery
    class or school-run nursery [who] are given priority for admission to
    Reception;’

    This appears to apply to any child in a school-run nursery.  But later on, as you say, it only allows priority to be given to those nursery pupils attracting the pupil premium (para 1.39b).

    This seems to me to still discriminate against children of parents unwilling or unable to send their child to a nursery attached to a school.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/389388/School_Admissions_Code_2014_-_19_Dec.pdf

  15. Britinfloridaus

    Janet. You are right the 2014 code makes the water very muddy, although the 2012 code did not make it illegal for schools to have a policy of priority from the nursery. One can equally argue that the view by the schools adjudicator is subjective, in that it is her opinion. It will be interesting how she makes the next determination.
    As it happens nurseries often have more places than the primary schools due to part time places. It is also easier to get into a nursery living further away, as there are usually fewer parents chasing places. It is very common for a mother to get her child into a nursery close to work as opposed to home. As it happens I am not personally in favour of priority being given, but I do wish the code was clear one way or the other.

  16. Janet2

    Britinfloridaus OSA acknowledged the (2012) Code was ‘silent’ about prioritising children who’d attended a nursery in its adjudication re three primary academies in the Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT) chain.

    Because of this silence, OSA had to judge whether the admission criteria ‘used to decide the
    allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective’. 

    OSA decided the criteria were not fair.  The full judgement explains why:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/295109/ada2550-52_cuckoo_hall_kingfisher_hall_and_woodpecker_hall_enfield_8oct13_002__1_.pdf

    In this case, the school  hired Stone King solicitors to represent CHAT despite OSA finding against schools for the same criteria in the past.  Some might say this was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

    http://www.stoneking.co.uk/news-events/news/stone-king-named-top-tier-education-firm-legal-industry-bible

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