Given the ‘derogations’ and funding agreements its not so straightforward
The DFE says ‘All academies and free schools must comply with the School Admissions Code. This ensures their admission arrangements are fair, clear and objective.’ ‘The purpose of the Code is to ensure that all school places for maintained schools (excluding maintained special schools ) and Academies are allocated and offered in an open and fair way.’ So far, so straightforward.
But, there are what are called ‘derogations’ from the Code. The Secretary of State has Funding Agreements with individual academies (ie Funding Agreements are not all the same)
It is through the individual Funding Agreement that the Secretary of State has agreed different admissions arrangements for academies and free schools. The DFE likes to stress, though, that this happens only in limited circumstances, ‘where there is demonstrable evidence that it will benefit local children’.
In addition on opening, all free schools are permitted to allocate places outside of local authority co-ordination in their first year only; while all academy schools that have opened since 2012 can grant admissions priority to pupils eligible for the pupil and service premiums. The revised School Admissions Code currently before the Commons proposes extending this freedom to all state-funded schools.
So what does derogation mean in practice? Well, for example, 46 free schools are able to give admissions priority to founders’ children. But Founders’ status is granted ‘ only to those individuals who have played a material role in setting up the school and who continue to be involved in the running of the school.’ And, another example, Birmingham Ormiston Academy which became an academy in 2011 is permitted to select the majority of its intake by their aptitude for the performing arts . Why? Because it is operating as a regional centre for the performing arts. So in the DFEs words.. ‘ The derogation enables children to obtain a specialist education unavailable elsewhere’.
Admissions policy is a bit of a minefield and one thing it is not is straightforward.School choice rather too often can mean that the school rather than the parent exercises choice.
Governments response to consultation on Code