The government is set to reject a recommendation by the education select committee to give a new duty to local authorities to monitor school admissions in a bid to prevent academic selection.
In a letter to Barry Sheerman chair of the Education and Skills select committee the education secretary Ruth Kelly said she could understand why people wanted assurances that the reforms were not a back door way of reintroducing academic selection.
“We also share a belief that it is essential that we have a system of fair admissions that delivers for all pupils,” the letter states. “Indeed we referred in the White Paper to the importance of fair admissions and the Admissions Code on more than 20 separate occasions.”
She added that the government would make sure the ‘system of fair admissions’ referred to in the White Paper was translated into law so that “no trust school or any other maintained school can undertake any further selection by academic ability”.
She said she wanted the Admissions Code to have “real force” and as a result the government would close a legal loophole so that admission authorities must “act in accordance” with it rather than have “regard” to it.
Kelly went on to say that there would be two additional bodies that already work with schools to ensure the Code of Practice on admissions is working: the local Admissions Forum which brings together the local authority, representatives of all categories of school and churches to discuss local admission policies; and the Schools Adjudicator, responsible for enforcing the Code.
She said the best way to address the committee’s concerns about fair access was through the Admissions Forums rather than giving a new role to local authorities.
The Forum would monitor whether admission arrangements of the local authority and school in the area are consistent with the Admissions Code and where it considers the Code is not being adhered to, she suggests the Forum could refer the school’s arrangements to the adjudicator. Currently only schools and local authorities can make referrals.
“We will give Admissions Forums the power to produce an annual report setting out the detail of local admission arrangements, how they impact on fair access and how particular groups are faring,” the letter went on.
Kelly’s formal response to the committee will be published shortly.