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New guidance takes away place guarantee for younger siblings

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2013

By Charlotte Antoniou,

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The thought of trying to get a child into a popular school is something which will strike a familiar fear into the heart of many parents.

One thing which helps many parents to retain their sanity is the thought that at least if an elder child gets a place, their siblings should be able to follow them.

Bad news, this week there is a suggestion that this will no longer be the case.

The 'smoke and mirrors' which surrounds admissions to schools is governed by the Schools Admission Code, a 37-page document published by the Department of Education.

Where a school has more applicants than places, which child gets a place will be decided by reference to the school's oversubscription criteria. All schools are required to have an oversubscription criteria which must comply with the Admissions Code.

It states that the criteria must be reasonable, clear and objective – words that do not always correspond with a parent's experience on the ground. It also states that priority must be given to children looked after by a local authority. The next highest priority is children with a statement of special educational needs which names a particular school. However, neither of these categories generally fills many spaces.

The next priority will be given to those children who meet criteria set by the school. Most schools set the next highest priority as children with a sibling at the school. Until now, this has seemed reasonable – should parents really need to rush around having to drop children off at different schools?

This week, the Schools Adjudicator (the people who oversee appeals about perceived unfairness in the schools admission process) has said that popular schools should consider axing the system of priority places for siblings because it discriminates against many children in the catchment area. Trigger consternation amongst parents who are threatened with multiple drop offs and pick-ups.

It seems that despite the Admissions Code offering 15 examples of what not to do when setting its oversubscription criteria, it is impossible for schools to avoid confusion and scandal.

So, do schools need to give more thought and offer more detail to each criterion, or is it simply the case that there will never be a system that is seems fair to all?

For more information please contact Charlotte Antoniou, solicitor at Michelmores LLP, at charlotte.antoiou@michelmores.com Disclaimer: This information has been prepared by Michelmores LLP as a general guide only and does not constitute legal advice on any specific matter and should not be relied upon as such. We recommend that you seek professional advice before taking action. No liability can be accepted by us for any action taken or not taken as a result of this information.

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