Hertfordshire schools rumbled again on children in care admissions

Schools in Hertfordshire have been exposed for avoiding requirements to prioritise children in care in their admissions for the second year running.

In its 2006-7 annual report, published last week, admissions regulator the Office of the Schools Adjudicator revealed it had upheld 16 objections about schools failing to give first priority to looked-after children in their admissions criteria when places are oversubscribed. Fourteen of these cases were in Hertfordshire, and in each case the breaches were referred to the adjudicator by Hertfordshire Council.

Last year, the adjudicator upheld 52 of 59 objections brought by the council against schools in the county for failing to comply with regulations to prioritise looked-after children in their admissions procedures for the 2007-8 intake.

Under the Education and Inspections Act 2006, the adjudicator was given a new power to question the extent to which admissions arrangements protected the interests of vulnerable children.

In this year’s report, it said councils and local admissions forums may have to take “highly contentious” actions to deal with situations where some successful schools “cream off” more affluent pupils from their areas leaving a disproportionate of deprived children in neighbouring schools.

The report said tackling this was likely to be “deeply unpopular with groups of articulate parents”, but “it will be important to maintain pressure on authorities and forums to address the issues” though “unreasonable to expect easy solutions”.

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