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Exclusive: Fears grow that school admissions review will be dropped

Campaigners worry that the weakened government will shy away from tackling the 'hot potato' of school admissions

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Campaigners worry that the weakened government will shy away from tackling the 'hot potato' of school admissions

School-admission campaigners and experts fear that a long-sought-after pledge to review England's admissions system could be dropped.

The Conservative manifesto set out plans to review admissions – but since the general election there has been silence on the subject.

And those in favour of change are becoming concerned that ministers could yet shy away from a debate over what is always a divisive issue.

Dame Sally Coates, United Learning’s director of academies in the south of England – who has repeatedly called for the admissions system to be overhauled – doubts the review will happen.

She said: “I wish there was a review, but I don’t think there will be anything. It is a bit of a hot potato, which is why I don’t think they have done anything about it yet."

Dame Sally added: “At the moment, admissions is complex and open to back-door selection. It needs to be centralised and transparent.”

When asked after the election in June whether plans remained to carry out a review, schools minister Nick Gibb would only say that the Department for Education (DfE) would “routinely keep the admissions system under review”.

Government 'directionless'

Fears are now growing that the issue has been overtaken by events. Melissa Benn, chair of admissions campaign group Comprehensive Future, said: “My feeling is that the landscape is so unstable now and the Tories are in such disarray that I expect they don’t know [what’s going on].”

Even in the DfE admission meetings, held before the Conservatives suffered their disappointment at the polls, Tes understands that there was little agreement between experts on what should be done.

One source who attended the meetings said: “I got the sense they were a bit directionless. They thought that if they got experts together, there would be some obvious things that could be done.

"But it was clear in the meetings that there just wasn’t a lot of consensus. To me, there are not easy wins around admissions.”

Alan Parker, a former schools adjudicator, told Tes: "I suspect that not that much will come of it. There is so much else going on, this is unlikely to be a high priority."

When asked to respond, the DfE referred Tes to Mr Gibb's June statement.

This is an edited article from the 4 August edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article hereTo subscribe, click hereThis week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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