The annual cost of choice? pound;47 million

Jon Slater

The school admissions system criticised by MPs as "frustrating and time-consuming for parents" costs the taxpayer pound;47 million annually, schools minister David Miliband has revealed.

Local authorities will spend pound;46m, equivalent to the budget of 65 primary schools, to administer the system of admissions and appeals this year.

School adjudicators, who rule on admissions disputes, cost a further pound;640,000 and Department for Education and Skills admission policy staff cost pound;500,000.

Mr Miliband revealed the admissions costs in a Parliamentary answer to Andrew Turner, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight and a member of the education select committee.

His answer follows the select committee's report on secondary admissions which attacked ministers' promise of school choice as inappropriate and counterproductive. MPs also expressed astonishment at the lack of information about how much the current system costs.

Mr Miliband admitted the Government did not collect data on the cost of admissions but said councils have budgeted to spend an average of pound;307,000 each for 20045 - a total of pound;46m.

This includes funding delegated to foundation and faith (voluntary aided) schools who control their own admissions.

Mr Turner said: "This seems an incredible sum to spend when there is considerable disatisfaction with the admissions system. This money would be better used to provide a greater number of places in good schools."

Local authorities estimate the cost of processing each secondary admission is about pound;60, five times the amount spent on that for primaries.

Critics fear Government plans to make it easier for secondaries to get foundation status are likely to further increase the cost by making the system even more complex. Each foundation schools is its own admissions authority. Martin Rogers, co-ordinator of The Education Network, said:

"Additional diversity will come at an incredible price for parents."

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Jon Slater

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