David Blunkett has a stern warning for the selection lobby in his latest consultation paper. Karen Thornton reports
The future of school admissions is orange - if the cover of the Department for Education's latest consultation paper is significant.
The guidance replaces the previous departmental circular, Admissions to Maintained Schools (696), and will itself be replaced by a statutory admissions code of practice from September 2000.
However, the legal requirements for school admissions will remain unchanged until the School Standards and Framework Bill - which introduces the new code - comes into effect. The guidance is intended to help schools and education authorities through the transition period.
It outlines the Government's proposals for:
* Local forums of admissions authorities, which will determine local admissions policies; * changes to the composition of appeals panels designed to make them independent of schools and education authorities; * independent adjudicators, who will settle disputes between authorities.
Separate annexes cover good practice, admission authorities and parental preference, changes to the character of schools, standards and approved admission numbers, and appeals.
There is also new guidance on the admission of children whose parents are temporarily living in the UK. It says that admissions authorities should not consider their immigration status. These applications should instead be considered on their merits, taking into account the educational welfare of the child and the likely length of their stay in the country.
The document spells the end of partial selection, according to a blunt foreword from Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett.
"We are not in favour of any further selection based on academic ability at whatever age of entry. Nor do we believe that partial selection based on academic ability is in the best interests of parents and children," he writes.
"The adjudicator will be able to end the practice where it currently exists if it is referred to him by local admission authorities or parents."
Interviews should not form part of admissions procedures, nor should subjective judgments about pupils' suitability for a particular school based on their behaviour.
However, "dump" schools with a high proportion of difficult children may be allowed to refuse entry to any more if they are endeavouring to raise standards from a low base, even if they have spare places.
The guidance says the statutory code of practice will stress the role of forums in drawing up strategies for difficult pupils and how they might be shared out more evenly among schools.
However, specialist schools will be able to select up to 10 per cent of their intake by "aptitude" for their specialist subject.
Education authorities will have a new duty to publish information about arrangements for all schools in their areas, and will have to consult on policies annually with other admissions authorities.
School Admissions: Interim Guidance is available from the DFEE Publications Centre by telephoning 0845 602 2260 or by faxing 0845 603 3360.
SCHOOL ADMISSIONS - INTERIM GUIDANCE
UNTIL SEPTEMBER 1999:
* Education authority councillors and school governors can
sit on appeals panels, but cannot chair them or be in a majority
* Appeals panels must have three, five or seven members
* Panels must have regard to admission authority policies and
the interim guidance (in its final form)
* Parents can appeal to the Secretary of State for Education
over whether the education authority or governing body has
acted reasonably in respect of the appeal process
AFTER SEPTEMBER 1999:
* The admission authority will not be able to appoint its own
members or members of the school's governing body to appeals panels
* Appeals panels will have a maximum of five members
* Panels will have regard to a new statutory code of practice
* Decisions will have to take into account maximum infant
class sizes of 30
* Parents will not be able to appeal to the Secretary of State
for Education, except in respect of denominational criteria.
Instead, appeals will go to an appointed adjudicator