School Admissions Process March 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Government's plans for the school admissions process.
The Government announced earlier this year plans to stop "complaints against faith schools from campaign groups" and objections to a school or local authority's admissions arrangements from outside the local area. This follows a recommendation made by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator in November 2015. I know that many of my constituents are concerned that this change will mean that parents will have too great a say in admissions processes and the average parent does not have the expertise to properly evaluate such processes.
I am aware that the Government will be conducting a full public consultation on the proposed changes in due course. I am concerned that any changes should not reduce the ability of people with genuine concerns about whether schools are adhering to the Admissions Code to raise them in an appropriate way. I hope that there is a strong response to the consultation and the Government listens to the legitimate concerns about the changes currently being proposed.
I believe that the Government has a responsibility to implement policies that promote social cohesion and tolerance, including within the education system, and that school admissions policy should be fair and allow a range of choices for parents and pupils.
It is also vital that all schools abide by the School Admissions Code that was introduced by the Labour Government in 2007. The code does not allow faith schools to refuse 'non faith' applicants if they are undersubscribed, and new 'faith' academies and free schools which are oversubscribed are also required to allocate at least half of their places to children without reference to faith.
More generally, I believe the Government's system for planning new school places has made it harder to ensure there are enough school places everywhere. It is clearly not working for parents up and down the country, with increasing numbers of children crammed into ever-expanding classes.
I am concerned that class sizes are larger than ever and children are having to commute further to attend school. The Government's approach is evidently not tackling the growing pressure on school places nor driving up standards, and the urgent need for sufficient good school places should be addressed. It is therefore important to ensure that civil group societies and experts can weigh in on the discussion about admissions practices. Education is a priority and the Government needs to do everything it can to make sure that its policies reflect the ever-changing needs of schools and children.
I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue closely and bear in mind the points you raise. Thank you once again for writing to me and sharing your views.