Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Southampton Admission Forum (E 94)


I am writing on behalf of the City of Southampton Admission Forum. The Forum is opposed to the proposal in Clause 34 of the Bill removing the statutory duty on Local Authorities to set up an Admission Forum. They are also concerned about the reduction in the power of the Schools Adjudicator to make further investigation and ruling in addition to following up a specific complaint. The Forum is aware that because there is not a complaint does not mean that there is not a problem!

The notes and evidence below, it believes, demonstrate the need for, and even strengthening of, the local Admission Forum rather than its disappearance. Despite the spread of types of school in the City the Forum has in the past proposed to the previous Government that there should be common admission criteria for all the schools in a Local Authority area.

Admissions has become a key issue in the life of a school child and the family and it is important with an ever increasing number of Own Admission Authorities there remains a representative forum with some clout to monitor local admissions and report to the National Schools Adjudicator.

1. The previous Government discovered, on investigating three very different local authorities, that sadly there were breaches of the admission code across different types of schools across all three authorities and reasonably projected this would be replicated across the Country.

2. The Southampton Forum has raised with the LA the loss of records when the two Academies were created and therefore a breach of the Code when children transferred to other schools without any records to follow. It has looked at the possibility of poaching of higher achieving children by schools in a neighbouring authority. Following a complaint from an agency dealing with asylum seekers we looked at the reason for the delays in children getting in to school of up to 6 months. This has now much improved. Currently the Forum is closely monitoring the first year of aptitude testing by the most over subscribed school with this as an ongoing item on our agenda.

3. The above "flavour" of the work is backed by the attendance at the Forum meetings. Current regulation has a core membership but we have agreed to have open meetings especially encouraging heads to attend. The fact that we get regular attendance from representatives of all our types of schools, Community, Voluntary Aided, Voluntary Controlled, Academy, Foundation and parents and governors indicates the importance attached to the Forum. This especially so by Headteachers who only attend meetings they deem important.

4. The Sutton Trust, Prof Ann West and the Schools Adjudicator have all produced evidence that there are a higher proportion of breaches from Own Admission Authorities. With the ever increasing number of admission authorities, (Southampton has gone from 7 to 22 in 5 years), a representative monitoring body is even more required.

5. Whilst served by Democratic Services the Forum is not a great drain on the bureaucracy or resources of the local authority.

6. We are considering an investigation into free school meals and other indices across all schools, starting with secondaries, over the last 5 years to see whether there has been a shift in admissions, given the change in status of schools. If the Forum is not there who would do this investigation?

7. The Forum holds fast to its remit to make sure admissions are fair and particularly children from areas of deprivation are not disproportionately squeezed out of more popular schools.

8. The Forum has returned an annual report, but last year was late owing to the chair being absent from a meeting owing to illness. However we believe that a report from the Forum to the adjudicator is important, even if it is by supporting/ adding to that from the Local Authority. In that we support the proposal from the Schools Adjudicator to strengthen the role of the Forum.

March 2011