“Making families visiting the school feel their child is not wanted or will not be supported” is just one of the "informal means" by which academies may be "dissuading" admissions of children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), according to a new report.
The annual report from OSA (Office of the Schools Adjudicator), published today, states that the practice of schools barring admissions to children with SEND is becoming "more widespread” as the pressure on schools budgets increase.
It also states that local councils are finding it “increasingly difficult” to carry out the necessary scrutiny of admissions procedures among schools who are their own admissions authorities, including multi-academy trusts, foundation schools and voluntary-aided schools.
Chief adjudicator Shan Scott states that only 19 local councils of out 152 in England were able to report that all own-admission authority schools had provided their admission arrangements to the local authority by the deadline for doing so of 15 March.
She said: “One local authority said there are 230 admission authorities in its area and another commented ‘it takes an excessive amount of time to gather and check other admission authorities’ arrangements.’”
The report also states that around 20 local councils in England reported that some of their local schools admissions authorities had resisted the naming of their schools on a child’s SEND education, health and care (EHC) plan.
She said: “Worryingly, I was told that this is becoming more widespread ‘as the pressures on LAs and school budgets increase. More schools are now, at the initial consultation, refusing to admit for less and less justifiable reasons.’
“Another local authority said, ‘some academies may be using informal means to dissuade some of these children.’ I was told that this could include making families visiting the school feel their child is not wanted or will not be supported there with the aim of encouraging the parents to ask for a different school to be named.
"Sometimes, I am told, schools seek to delay the statutory process again with the aim of encouraging parents to ask for a different school to be named.”
The report also shows that there were 129 objections to admissions arrangements in 2017-18, up from 100 the previous year.