Upheaval for losers

21st January 2000 at 00:00
Wirral. Three court challenges in six months for the Government's new schools admissions watchdog. Clare Dean reports.

WIRRAL was forced to rethink its school admissions policy after the High Court upheld a ruling that its method of allocating pupils to its 23 secondaries was "unfair".

The decision affected the choices of the 4,000 children due to start at secondary school this September, and the council was disappointed at losing the case.

Admissions arrangements for entry to secondary schools in the borough for this September had been unanimously agreed by the education committee.

The council had claimed the policy had been formulated after a lengthy consultation exercise. It argued that it was the fairest available system of allocating places. But the adjudicator disagreed.

Under Wirral's disputed policy, parents who selected a grammar as their first choice had their second choice of school "elevated" (ie treated as if they had put i as a first choice) if their child failed the 11-plus.

The head of St Mary's College, Wallasey, objected to the policy saying it gave some parents an unfair advantage, because they effectively had two "first choices".

The complaint was upheld by the adjudicator in November and in December the High Court rejected the council's claims that the adjudicator's decision was irrational.

Further allegations that the adjudicator had exceeded his powers and had breached natural justice by failing to consult the council properly were also dismissed.

Mick Groves, education chair, was disappointed that the council's lawyers had failed to convince the judge and said: "Reluctantly now we must accept the outcome."

Under new amended arrangements, when the council considers parental preferences for secondary school, they are considered in the order stated.

It is not now possible to "elevate" a second preference for a comprehensive school.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today