A multi-academy trust has been told to revise an admissions policy that prioritised giving school places to children of all the chain's employees.
The Enquire Learning Trust has been warned that its admission requirements "do not conform" with national rules.
The trust, which has 23 primaries in the North of England, planned to give greater priority to children of all staff employed by the MAT – rather than just the school in question.
The trust finalised its admission arrangements for September 2017 in February. But Lincolnshire County Council raised concerns about the priority given to children of all MAT staff in the oversubscription criteria for one of the chain's schools, Keelby Primary Academy in Grimsby.
'Entitled' to a place
When the trust was asked to clarify its arrangements, it said that "all staff who have a permanent contract" with the MAT are "entitled to place their children in [its] schools", according to a report from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator published yesterday.
But adjudicator Phil Whiffing ruled that the School Admissions Code "does not allow any priority to be given to other employees of the trust and certainly does not give any ‘entitlement' to a place for any child as suggested by the trust".
The code prohibits giving priority for places to children based on the occupation of their parents. However, priority can be given to children of staff of an individual school if they have been employed there for at least two years. Priority can also be given if they are recruited to fill a post for which there is a demonstrable skill shortage.
Mr Whiffing added: "I have looked at the school’s funding agreement and can find no derogation which allows priority to be given to children of all staff employed by the trust."
Contrast with local schools
The adjudicator also raised concerns that the primary school would give a greater priority to children of staff rather than those living nearby.
"The code does not prohibit this, but it makes the arrangements at this school different to those for other schools in the trust located nearby," he added.
The school has been asked to revise its admissions policy for September 2017 within two months.
The ruling comes months after the outgoing chief adjudicator, Elizabeth Passmore, unveiled a host of problems with schools acquiring academy status and running their own admissions.
In March, TES reported that ministers were considering radical changes to school admissions that would hand back some of academies’ powers to local authorities.
The Enquire Learning Trust has been contacted for comment.