Children in care and those with special educational needs are likely to be the first victims of the coalition’s flagship Academies Bill, campaigners have warned.
The bill – which will allow schools to opt out of local authority control – has sparked controversy with critics accusing the government of trying to rush it through parliament.
The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) has published a briefing on the Bill for its second reading in parliament, expressing concern that the speed of the parliamentary process will “limit the consideration given to the impact of the bill on groups of disadvantaged children and young people”.
TACT claims differences in admission and exclusion policies between local authority maintained schools and academies will unfairly prejudice against children in care.
Its briefing stated: “Academy Schools will operate as individual entities and are more likely to be selective in order to improve academically. TACT is extremely concerned academies will be unlikely to admit children in care who perform relatively poorly compared with their peers.”
The briefing also stated that guidance on exclusions is “far more lax for academies than for LA maintained schools”, pointing out that the rate of permanent exclusions from academies is twice the rate for local authority maintained secondary schools.
“[This] is of concern to TACT as children in care and those with special educational needs make up a disproportionate number of children and young people who are excluded,” it stated.
The charity called the reforms under the bill, which could become law as early as next week, a “backward step for a group of disadvantaged children whose life chances have already been damaged”.
The Local Government Association has already called for local authorities to have commissioning powers over academies to prevent a “two-tier” system springing up and ensure academies continue to take looked-after children.