Parents need to know their school admissions rights – let’s help them

When I wrote Those concerned with “student quality” should be shamed not lauded last week I thought I had covered every instance of how some schools manipulate admissions to their school. Following interactions and communications locally since then I have realised that I have underestimated the depths to which some will stoop. Having been appraised of these instances I feel that it is essential that parents are made fully aware of their rights in these matters and that they are encouraged to speak up so that they can be tackled.

The instances in question concern cohort manipulation after offers for a school are received but before pupils start their first school year. The dreadful examples that I have been appraised of concern the move between Y6 and Y7 but could theoretically occur when joining a primary school.

I will not reveal the specifics of either case as they are not in the public arena but should they become so then we will not hesitate to publicise them. Suffice to say, once an offer of a place has been made the school should be doing all it can to cater for that student. Indeed, in the case of SEN students they have a legal duty to do so unless they can convince the Local Authority that the offer has been made in error.

Let us be clear:

  • Schools are not allowed to decide that they can’t cater for your child because they have decided that they are not bright enough. Even if they have started induction and done a test since getting an offer.
  • Grammar schools may admit on the basis of attainment or testing, no other state funded school can. Claiming that you are an “academic school” does not allow you to ignore the terms of your funding agreement.
  • LA schools, academies and free schools are classed as mainstream schools and are subject to the same admissions code. Stating that you are a “state funded independent school” does not absolve you of this.
  • All such schools are funded on the basis that they comply with these codes and if they fail to do so action can be taken.To accompany the above, here is a link to the model mainstream academy/free school funding agreement:

Parents with children with Special Educational Needs should note the following in particular: 2.11

“The Academy Trust must ensure that the Academy meets the needs of individual pupils, including pupils with SEN and disabilities.”

It is very understandable that parents who are effectively told that their child is not wanted at a certain school decide to go elsewhere and not take it any further but this will not allow this problem to be tackled.

It also has some potentially significant financial implications here in Essex. As the County Council will only pay for transport to the nearest school, if that school will not cater for their child it means that they will effectively have to pay for access to schooling that should be their right.

On every level this is a disgraceful situation that needs to be highlighted and those schools conducting themselves in this way need to be exposed. We must therefore encourage those parents who have experienced discrimination or encountered breaches of the admissions code to come forward. Those that they inform must act on that information, alert the appropriate authorities and ensure that the complaint is fully followed through to as high a point as necessary to gain a satisfactory resolution.

There are a range of agencies that can be complained to depending on the situation. Those experiencing issues with the transition from Y6 to Y7 are encouraged to seek advice from their current school in the first instance.

As we are not experts in these matters, we are offering to share any advice or useful links for parents, or schools, with a complaint via our website.  Please don’t hesitate to post a comment, mail or contact us via our Twitter feed, @AskBrentwood. Please don’t post hearsay, we are looking to offer useful advice to enable exposure of bad practice through official channels, not naming and shaming without evidence.

Supporting parents in this situation is the key to ensuring that the unprincipled few are brought to book and that parents have fair access to a good local education for their child that they are funding through their taxes.

Let’s work together to do so.

Stephen Mayo


  1. As a Family Worker in a local special school I am very aware how uncomfortable parents can be made to feel at some mainstream schools. I stress ‘some’ as there is brilliant work being undertaken in many. What I can advice and recommend is that any parent, who is struggling with any issue surrounding the special needs of their child, contact such charities as Families in Focus, Network 81, FACE, Interact (all Essex based) who can offer unbiased advice and serve as advocates at school meetings.


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