Just this week, Hertfordshire County Council has demonstrated in an email to the parent of a summer born child just how the DfE’s (post)Code(lottery) allows admissions authorities to be ‘seen‘ to consider requests individually while simultaneously making it clear that some requests will be deemed more valid than others…
It also demonstrates the extent to which some councils will go in order to retain decision-making powers, even when legally it is an ‘own admissions authority’ school that the parent may be applying to – and it shows how easily parents might despair of fighting even at the first hurdle, and reluctantly enrol their child in school early.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen councils exert pressure and power on both parents and schools, but as an example of some of the problems going on with summer born admissions, this communication is a useful read:Published here with permission from recipient, in the public interest (my emphasis):
“‘Out of Year Group’ applications can be considered without any supporting professional evidence and each case is heard on an individual basis, taking into account any information or evidence that is provided relating to the child. If there is no information or evidence that supports the claims made in the application then it is less likely to be agreed, however it will still be considered, complying with HCC’s duty to make a decision on the basis of the circumstance of the case.
As stated in the [DfE’s] guidance you have highlighted, we would “expect the parent to provide some information to support their request” as without it HCC would not be able to make a decision on the basis of the circumstances of the case, however we would not expect you to obtain professional evidence that you do not already have, as advised in the Dfe’s guidance.
In effect, an application without any supporting professional evidence would be weaker than that of one with such supporting information.
Furthermore it is also worth highlighting that if the ‘Out of Year Group’ application was agreed to be processed by the Local Authority and you were applying for a Catholic school, then the governors of the school will also need to make a decision as to whether they wish to accept the application, as the majority of these are their own admitting authority. Please note however that schools such as this cannot agree to accept an application for your child if the application to the Local Authority is refused.“
* * * * * * *
Comment by the Summer Born Campaign’s Michelle Melson:
It is astonishing how a local authority can state this – and this is a local authority we know is fully conversant with the School Admissions Code because of other parents also involved in David and Goliath type battles with them.
The School Admissions Code clearly states that the decision rests with the admission authority – so in the case of a voluntary aided Catholic school, the decision rests with the governing body. No ifs, no buts – that’s the law.
This local authority is clearly not complying with legislation here, but who will hold them to account?
The local authority has a duty to process applications, but it doesn’t get to make the decision for this particular school preference, no matter how much they would like to have control.
Nevertheless, they still might.
We are aware of cases where schools who are their own admission authority have said ‘yes’ to parental requests, but have then made a u-turn when the local authority ‘persuaded’ them otherwise – including the threat of withdrawing funding in the case of a voluntary aided school (not in the case above).
Another case involved a council’s dramatic ‘over my dead body’ declaration when an Academy school agreed to a parental request – though fortunately in that particular case the Academy held firm.
It takes a strong Governing Body and a strong Academy Trust to put their head above the parapet and stand up to pressure from local authorities – although of course the opposite scenario can be true too.
We are also aware of cases where the local authority has agreed but then the head teacher of a maintained school (i.e. the council is the AA) has said they don’t agree with a Reception class CSAge start, and now that the DfE’s advice says councils “must take account of the views of the head teacher of the school concerned“, the application process can quickly become very complex and frustrating for parents forced to ‘request’ a full education for their child.