Grant-maintained schools are likely to be given only limited freedom to select their pupils, with ministers retaining a veto over changes in admission procedures.
The prospect of GM schools being able to decide their own policies was held out by the Prime Minister in his speech to heads and governors two weeks ago. He said: "I see no reason why self-governing schools should not decide their own policy on oversubscription; nor about how you (GM schools) maintain the ethos of your school."
However, the Government does not appear to be planning to allow schools to select pupils on any basis they choose. The proposals being drafted by the Department for Education and Employment would require grant-maintained schools to consult officials and would also require them to inform local education authorities of any changes in admission arrangements. Currently, GM schools cannot change their admissions policies without the approval of the Education and Employment Secretary.
Several schools have complained about being refused permission to use academic selection for a proportion of their pupils.
Ministers have to be wary of increasing the number of complaints from parents who have been unable to get their child into the school of their choice. The local government ombudsman, who takes cases from local authority schools, has made clear that he believes the procedure should cover GM schools.
Complaints from parents have increased dramatically over the past few years. The publication of exam league tables has increased the pressure for places in high-performing schools. It has also made schools more likely to favour selection policies that will boost exam results.