They do not look beyond the Code to the relevant Primary Legislation.
On September 04 2013, during a debate in Westminster, Elizabeth Truss, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, stressed that government wanted to see parents as the primary decision makers and that parents should be able to choose whether or not their child enters reception class at compulsory school age (which reflects the 1996 Education Act’s “Pupils to be educated in accordance with parents‘ wishes” legislation).
“We have been clear with local authorities about where their responsibilities lie, and about the fact that we want to see them being flexible and giving the parents the choice for their five-year-old child of joining reception or year 1… We are absolutely clear that parents should be able to say to a school, ‘We want our child, who is aged five, to enter reception’, if they feel that that is in the best interests of their child.”
But this ‘choice’ has never materialised for the majority; instead, after making parents justify why they want their child to join an entry class to school at compulsory school age, and in many cases provide copious amounts of ‘evidence’ to prove why their child needs seven years of primary education rather than just six, the response is a firm “no“.
Elizabeth Truss, also stated, “Having too much central guidance the other way would be wrong.” Yet a May 18, 2014 article in the Sunday Sun, Lessons to Learn on School Starts, about Julie Thompson, a mum who endured a hard won battle against Durham County Council to start her son Ashton in reception class at age five, demonstrates the stance most frequently taken by admission authorities:
“Caroline O’Neill, head of education at Durham County Council, said: “The school admissions code of practice is set nationally by the Government. Local councils are responsible for implementing that code of practice and for administering and co-ordinating school admissions and we will adhere to any changes as and when they are issued.”
Ministers must understand that there will never be the promised ‘choice’ until the School Admissions Code is amended to reflect this.
By M Melson & P Hull