Following consultation, the DfE recently published its long-awaited new School Admissions Code 2021 (“the new Code”). It comes in to force on 1 September 2021, subject to when Parliamentary approval is given. In general terms the new Code will apply to admission arrangements yet to be determined i.e. for admission in 2023 and thereafter. However, we set out below the following actions that Admission Authorities, including Academy Trusts, must take to ensure compliance with the new Code:
- Before 1 September 2021 regarding the wider definition of previously looked after children; and,
- By 1 and 31 October 2021 regarding information in relation to their In-Year admissions Both of these actions relate to admission arrangements that have already been determined. We conclude by highlighting a number of other changes that will apply to admission arrangements yet to be determined.
Both of these actions relate to admission arrangements that have already been determined. We conclude by highlighting a number of other changes that will apply to admission arrangements yet to be determined.
- Action Required
From September 2021 priority must be given to children who appear to the Admission Authority to have been in state care outside of England but ceased to be so as a result of being adopted only (this is in addition to the existing requirement to give priority to looked after children and previously looked after children who ceased to be looked after as a result of being adopted or becoming subject to a child arrangements or special guardianship order). The new Code clarifies that “A child is regarded as having been in state care outside of England if they were in the care of or were accommodated by a public authority, a religious organisation, or any other provider of care whose sole or main purpose is to benefit society”.
This will require action by Admission Authorities to ensure compliance by 31 August 2021. It is recommended that arrangements aren’t amended (although they can be prepared in advance) until the new Code receives parliamentary approval. As arrangements for 2021/22 and 2022/23 will have already been determined, Admission Authorities will need to vary their arrangements in line with the new Code (see paragraphs 3.6 and 3.7). Admission Authorities will not need consent to make this variation as the amendment is required to give effect to a mandatory requirement of the new Code.
- Other points to note for action in the Autumn term are around In-Year admissions and are as follows:
By 1 October 2021 Admission Authorities must inform the Local Authority in whose area they are based, whether they intend to be part of the Local Authority’s In-Year co-ordination scheme for the period to 31 August 2022 (where this is offered). This is to enable Local Authorities to meet their obligation to publish information on their websites about how In-Year applications will be dealt with. Admission Authorities will need to consider the In-Year provisions contained within their determined arrangements (i.e. for 2021-22 and 2022-23) ahead of notifying the Local Authority of their choice. In all subsequent years, the Admission Authority must inform the Local Authority by 1 August whether they intend to be part of the In-Year co-ordination scheme for the following academic year. By the same date, for schools that intend to be part of the Local Authority’s In-Year co-ordination for the following academic year, they must also provide the Local Authority with all the information that the Local Authority is required to publish on its website, including supplementary information forms.
By 31 October 2021 own Admission Authorities must publish information on the school’s website about how In-Year applications will be dealt with from 1 November 2021 until 31 August 2022. By 31 August (at the latest) in all subsequent years, own Admission Authorities must publish information on the school’s website about how In-Year applications will be dealt with from the 1 September until the 31 August the following year. The published information must set out/provide:
how parents can apply for a school place; if the Admission Authority manages their own In-Year admissions; access to a suitable application form for parents to complete (and a supplementary information form where necessary); and when parents will be notified of the outcome of their application and details about the right to appeal
- Other changes which will apply to admission arrangements yet to be determined:
There are a number of other changes included within the new Code which will apply to admission arrangements yet to be determined (i.e. for admission in 2023 onwards). The headline points are set out below, however, this is not an exhaustive list and there is no substitution for reading the new Code.
Priority for Children of Staff - additional wording has been added to make it clear that priority can only be given at the school where the member of staff works. This is important in the context of multi academy trusts. Admission Authorities must also be specific in their arrangements about which groups of staff the priority will apply to; Fair Access Protocol - the new Code contains an exhaustive list of children to be included in the Fair Access Protocol; Published Admission Number/In-Year Admissions - additional wording has been added to make it clear that an Admission Authority cannot refuse admission to a year group (other than a normal point of entry) on the basis that they have already reached their Published Admission Number. Admission may be refused where the admission of another child would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources; and Clarifications - the new Code provides clarity on the following:
- The prohibition on giving priority on the basis of practical/financial support;
- Distance in oversubscription criteria, including the introduction of “nodal points”;
- Minuting the determination of admission arrangements;
- Supplementary Information Forms (it is now clear that priority must not be given to an applicant solely on the basis of having completed a Supplementary Information Form);
- Children of UK service personnel and Crown servants, in particular, there is now no requirement for the child’s intended address to be confirmed in an official letter);
- Co-ordination and late applications (additional wording has been added to make it clear that the Local Authorities’ co-ordinated schemes cover applications for the normal admissions round and also late applications for all publicly funded schools in their area;
- Other aspects of the Fair Access Protocol.
Following this Bulletin and the immediate action points outlined above, we will be holding a Webinar on 9 September to discuss these matters in greater depth. This will allow Admission Authorities ample time to consider the new Code before the 6-week consultation period for any proposed changes to their 2023-2024 admission arrangements, which must take place between 1 October 2021 and 31 January 2022.