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Children formerly in care outside England to be prioritised in school admissions

Nick Gibb urges admission authorities to voluntarily change their policies ahead of proposed change in the law

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Nick Gibb urges admission authorities to voluntarily change their policies ahead of proposed change in the law

Children who have spent time in care while living in other countries will be given the “highest priority” for school admissions in England, under new government plans.

Schools admissions authorities have been required to give looked-after children in England the highest priority in their admission arrangements since 2007.

Five years later, this was extended to children who had previously been in care in England.

Now, the DfE has said it plans to change the law to require children who were previously in care outside England to also receive the highest priority for admission to schools in England.

In a letter to local authorities and admission authorities, dated on 4 December 2017 and published in the parliamentary website last week, school standards minister Nick Gibb said: “We are doing this because these children are also vulnerable and may have experienced abuse and neglect prior to being placed in care.

“We therefore feel it is right that these children should be on an equal footing for the purpose of admission to school as those children looked after and previously looked after by a local authority in England.”

He said the government will consult on any changes to the School Admissions Code.

However, he urged admission authorities to act before the law was changed, and voluntarily change their codes to give these children the second highest priority in their oversubscription criteria.

Mr Gibb acknowledged that many admission authorities have already started consultations on changes to their policies for 2019-20, and encouraged them to introduce the change for the following school year.

Earlier this month, chief adjudicator Shan Scott warned that some school admissions authorities “appear to seek to delay or discourage” the admission of looked-after children who need a new school place partway through the school year.

Writing in her annual report, she said: “For looked-after children, delays in securing a new school place when one is needed can have particularly serious consequences, including jeopardising a foster placement.”

Three local authorities reported that the needs of looked-after children “were not met well”, with one council reporting “resistance” in some admission authorities to admit these children.

And some local authorities raised concerns that some children in care were disadvantaged because faith schools can give priority to children of the faith over looked-after and previously looked-after children not of the faith.

However, one council said “a large number” of local faith schools had stopped splitting such looked-after children by faith to ensure that “more looked-after children are able to access outstanding faith schools”.

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