Education (Variation of Admission Arrangements) (England) and Education (Admission Appeals Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2002

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The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman has had a good run. I hope that he will now restrict his remarks to the statutory instruments.

Mr. Page: Yes, you are right, Mr. Hurst.

The statutory instruments do not address the problems relating to the education of the children of my constituents. I have here a letter that says exactly that—that the regulations do not answer the problems. Two or three years ago, I asked the then Minister responsible for this issue to send a deputation to explain the problems. That request was refused, and has been refused again by the Minister before us. Can he give my constituents an answer, and tell them how the statutory instruments will provide the education that my constituents' children need? That is all that I want to know. I am here for my constituents.

2.46 pm

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): I welcome those making their debut at our series of debates on statutory instruments. I shall briefly run through the points raised.

The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West said that we focused on a change in admission numbers as an example of what might lead to a variation in any year. He asked for another example. One can imagine that if there were a fire at a school, the catchment area might change. Those are the sort of circumstances that we envisage. He also asked whether a change in the admission numbers would still need to go before the adjudicator if a school organisation committee had approved it. I confirm that the variation regulations are pretty clear on that. A change in admission numbers resulting from a statutory proposal that has been approved by the school organisation committee or the adjudicator need not be referred to the adjudicator. He also asked about the right of appeal against adjudicators' decisions.

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Mr. Brady: Will the Minister confirm whether the variation could or must be referred to the adjudicator if it is not the result of a statutory proposal?

Mr. Miliband: My understanding is that it must. I am relieved to see some nodding heads to my left, so I shall not have to write to the hon. Gentleman. I think that that is what is known in ''Who Wants to be a Millionaire?'' as ''ask the audience''. Unfortunately, I was not able to do that, but I guessed and was right.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the adjudicator was the court of last appeal, and I confirm that he is. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) asked about the role of the admission forum; it does not have a role under these regulations.

On statutory instrument No. 2899, which relates to appeals, hon. Members will know that the statutory instruments put in place or repeat arrangements made in existing legislation. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West asked about joint appeal panels. Our experience of those is from cases in which local education authorities and foundation schools voluntarily set up joint appeal arrangements. The regulations are designed to cover such instances.

The issue of academies was raised by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough. The regulations do not apply to them; they are required to follow the law. In the case of academies, appeals go the Secretary of State rather than to the adjudicator.

The hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) tempted me to range far and wide on issues that we have had the privilege of discussing in our past three meetings. One of my hon. Friends suggested an answer to the constituent who wanted to know how to make his education system better by saying, ''Vote Labour''. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman heard that.

I shall answer a couple of other points that the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire raised. I assure him that, under the new code, admission authorities have to give reasons to a parent explaining why an application was refused. He also raised a perfectly

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legitimate point about the expansion of popular schools. New provision in the statutory guidance that was issued last month makes provision for that expansion, which will ease the situation for schools that want to expand.

Mr. Willis: My point ties into that issue. I asked the Minister about admission to academies and how that relates to popular schools. Is he saying that an academy that admits a year group of 300 could increase that figure mid-year to 450 without having to refer to anyone? I know that he or his officials are in discussion about turning all the schools in Southwark into academies. Would that mean that those schools could expand their admissions to any level, impacting significantly on neighbouring boroughs?

Mr. Miliband: I am not in discussions with Southwark, but I take the hon. Gentleman's word for it that my officials are. I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which a school would raise its admissions mid-year from 300 to 450. That seems a completely incredible suggestion. If an authority wanted to turn all its schools into academies, I am sure that it would seek to ensure that that would contribute to the whole of provision. Entry to academies must be based on the needs of the local population and it should provide them with a fair offer.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Education (Variation of Admission Arrangements) (England) (S.I. 2002, No. 2898)

EDUCATION (ADMISSIONS APPEALS ARRANGEMENTS) (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS (S.I. 2002, NO. 2899)

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Education (Admissions Appeals Arrangements) (England) Regulations (S.I. 2002, No. 2899).—[Mr. Brady.]

Committee rose at nine minutes to Three o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Hurst, Mr. Alan (Chairman)
Brady, Mr.
Cawsey, Mr.
Cruddas, Jon
Dalyell, Mr.
Donohoe, Mr.
Harris, Mr. Tom
Jenkins, Mr.
Miliband, Mr.
Page, Mr.
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Twigg, Derek
Wareing, Mr.
Willis, Mr.

 
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