Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Oxfordshire Governors’ Association (E 52)

 

1. Introduction

The Oxfordshire Governors' Association was formed in 1995 to help represent the concerns of governors to both local and national bodies responsible for education. Its objects of Association set down its intention to:

· Further the education of the children in Oxfordshire schools.

· Promote co-operation between Oxfordshire schools.

· Ascertain and represent the views and opinions of the broad body of Oxfordshire school governors.

· Act as a non-party political and non-sectarian forum for the exchange of information relating to the needs and interests of Oxfordshire schools.

· Bring to the notice of authorities concerned the needs and interests of Oxfordshire schools and press for action where it is required

· Act as a consultative body on behalf of Oxfordshire governors with the aforementioned authorities.

· Organise events and representation in support of Oxfordshire Governors' needs and those of the pupils and their schools.

OGA is run entirely by volunteer support. Our only funding comes from our annual subscription charges, half of which is paid to the National Governors Association - our affiliation costs. The remainder is mainly spent on a speakers’ fees and expenses, publication costs, and travelling costs for representatives attending meetings on behalf of OGA.

2. Submission

2.1 If enacted the Education Bill will serve to erode the principle of fair school admissions. Clause 34 abolishes admission forums, the duty on local authorities to report annually on admissions to the School Adjudicator and the power of the school adjudicator to look at all aspects of admissions once a particular issue is raised with him.

2.2 Successive School Admissions Codes have done a great deal to remove unfairness in school admissions. The work of local authorities, admission forums and the School Adjudicator has been instrumental in this, particularly in monitoring the Code. Admission F orums provide a vehicle for local admission authorities and other key interested parties to discuss the effectiveness of local admission arrangements, consider how to deal with difficult admission issues and to advise admission authorities on ways in which their arrangements can be improved. All parents are entitled to know that the local admission forum is open to them to make representations, as many have. The Chief School Adjudicator has made recommendations in his recent Annual Report about the local authority reports suggesting how they might be used to require specific information. He also proposed enhancing the role of the Admission Forums in contributing to these reports. In nearly half his investigations of complaints he found other aspects of admissions whi ch did not comply with the Code and Clause 34 , if enacted, will make it more likely that such breaches will be missed.

2.3 The Bill prescribes that it will be up to local authorities to ensure schools comply with the admissions code (which is enshrined in law). Academies and faith schools control their own admissions, rather than their local authority doing it for them, although they will be expected to comply with a code, which is designed to prevent teachers from covertly selecting pupils. Surely maintaining Admissions Forums, with their system of representation and accountability, and ensuring an annual local authority report to the School Adjudicator is a proper way to secure such scrutiny and make it transparent to parents, governors and the community?

2.4 The Children’s Schools Commissioner has also warned that schools may be encouraged to flout the law governing fair admissions under the Bill’s reforms and that an unintended outcome of the Bill will be to increase social segregation in schools. It is the view of Oxfordshire Governors’ Association that reducing accountability in the way that Clause 34 suggests risks adding to the social segregation and stratification of schools, it will erode the principle of fair admissions to schools and reduce the accountability of schools to parents and communities

March 2011