Kelly’s new stance on reform meets campaigners’ demands half way

Campaigners have welcomed  revisions to the education white paper to enforce schools’ adherence to the admissions code, but have called on ministers to go further in defending disadvantaged children.

Kelly, Ruth smilingEducation secretary Ruth Kelly announced this week that the government would close the “legal loophole” so schools that handle their own admissions must “act in accordance” with the code rather than merely “have regard to it”.

Kelly also said schools would be outlawed from interviewing parents as a means of selecting children.

The policy shifts respond to criticisms from Labour backbenchers and the education select committee that plans to create trust schools, with control over admissions, would disadvantage poorer children.

Mark Behrendt, a senior project officer at the Local Government Association, said the LGA welcomed the changes but said other parts of the code could be  strengthened too.

Chris Waterman, executive director of the Confederation of Education and Children’s Services Managers, also felt that the code needed to be changed further. He said: “The government has obviously recognised the need to give the code teeth. The next step is to ensure that the content of the code meets the needs of every child.”

He added that he also supported the plan to outlaw interviews but it was essential that schools were not able to get round the law.

“Interviews should be made to include any face to face meetings between schools and parents,” he added.

Peter Lampl, chair of education charity The Sutton Trust, said it was “crucial” that councils were given the power to enforce the admissions code.

Kelly announced the plans in response to the committee’s report on the white paper but failed to take up some of its recommendations.

These included a call for councils to set benchmarks for secondary schools on the number of disadvantaged pupils they admit, and for a duty to be placed on councils to monitor admissions arrangements.

  • The parliamentary joint committee on human rights has said that children with special educational needs could have their human rights breached by the white paper proposals, if trust schools were not obliged to admit them.
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