A rather interesting update appeared in a DfE document in May (see actual document for date), ensuring everyone understands a child’s rights – or rather lack of them – in a very pertinent area of the Equality Act, given the summer born admissions debate:
“Schools therefore remain free to admit and organise children in age groups and to treat pupils in ways appropriate to their age and stage of development without risk of legal challenge“, it reminds us all.
And, “The discrimination provisions on age do not extend to anything an LA does in relation to school admissions, so existing approaches in which admissions and transition between schools are determined by a child’s age will not be open to challenge.”
But what’s really odd is this:In England, we have a government department that appears to be bending over backwards to defend and support a glitch in the education system that allows children to miss a whole year of their education – against their parents’ wishes – either when entering school (i.e. Reception class) or at any other point in their education (i.e. any year group at all!).
- The DfE condones the possibility that a child may be made to go straight from year 6 into year 8 for example (we have a case where a DfE Minister was contacted about this exact problem but he just wrote back to the parent supporting ‘local decision-making’).
- The DfE is also aware, and accepting, of cases where children have been or are in the process of being made to skip a year during their primary education – with seemingly no reason or defence other than to move these children into their ‘correct’ age group.
Parents are even being advised that should their child start school in Reception class at compulsory school age, that their child will need to skip a year at some point during primary education – before the child has even started school or reached the end of reception. It is a predetermined decisions with little to do with the child’s best interests.
This latest DfE defence of local authorities being legally allowed to admit and organise pupils as they see fit demonstrates beyond doubt that the DfE is determined to fight this battle to the bitter end.
But you know what? Even if it ‘wins‘, and children’s lives continue to be adversely impacted, history has a way of exposing the truth, and the shame, behind how and why decisions were made.
What’s happening is an utter disgrace. Michael Gove, you should be ashamed that your Department is allowing this to continue.
Here is the update in full:
1.15 A person’s age is also a protected characteristic in relation to
employment and the Act extends this (except for children) to the
provision of goods and services, but age as a protected characteristic
does not apply to pupils in schools. Schools therefore remain free to
admit and organise children in age groups and to treat pupils in ways
appropriate to their age and stage of development without risk of
legal challenge, even in the case of pupils over the age of 18.
6.5 LAs play a key role in the school admissions process in maintained
schools. The discrimination provisions on age do not extend to
anything an LA does in relation to school admissions, so existing
approaches in which admissions and transition between schools are
determined by a child’s age will not be open to challenge.