This probe, focusing on admissions and place planning, was designed to identify the key issues affecting local authorities in this area, to inform key priorities for future LGA research. It was undertaken within a short timescale and made use of the range of sources of intelligence to which NFER had immediate access. The three main aims were to identify existing and on-going work in the area so that future research is original and/or builds on this, to identify the issues that relevant practitioners considered need addressing, and to highlight areas where further research would be beneficial and viable.
Local authorities’ views
Issues associated with school place planning were most frequently a concern to local authority respondents. This included the difficulties associated with accurately forecasting school places, particularly in areas where there was a growth in housing developments. The changing demand for school places, or places in particular year groups, was an issue causing concern to some local authorities though in others, this was an area where systems were felt to have improved.
Securing school places for ‘hard-to-place’ pupils, such as those with challenging behaviour, was another concern to some authorities. This seemed to be an area that local authorities were beginning to address by developing protocols with schools for sharing the admission of such pupils. Sometimes the issue was exacerbated in authorities where a number of schools were their own admission authority. Other circumstances which caused particular concern in this area were where schools were required to go over their published admission number to accept pupils with challenging behaviour or when there was a shortage of alternative educational provision for these pupils. In comparison, some responding authorities highlighted this as an area working well, such as where the authority had set up a collaborative system with schools for dealing with casual admissions.
For 2005 admissions, it was the first year that authorities were required to coordinate admission arrangements between schools. Unsurprisingly, this was highlighted as a concern to local authorities but, in some cases, was felt to be an area working well, because of good cooperation between authorities within the region.
Areas susceptible to further research
From the information gleaned from the literature and other experts contacted, the following areas were identified as susceptible to further research:
- the impact of recent policy on the pattern of preferences for schools and the characteristics of pupils who apply to different types of schools (West, 2003)
- the issues of schools acting as their own admissions authority, and the impact of the increasing number of schools with additional autonomy (such as academies and specialist schools)
- the extent to which different types of school adhere to the admissions Code of Practice (West, 2003), how local authorities monitor and report discrepancies to the School’s Adjudicator, and the effectiveness of school admissions policies (GB. Parliament. HoC. Education and Skills Committee, 2004)
- the interaction of policies for school place planning with housing planning and inclusion policies (Ofsted and Audit Commission, 2003).
The following areas were highlighted, through the literature and local authority responses, as issues that future research may be able to help in addressing:
- the effects of some schools (e.g. those that are voluntary aided and foundation status) acting as their own admissions authority, particularly the effect this has on neighbouring schools and the characteristics of pupils who apply to, and obtain a place at, the different types of schools
- the impact of the increasing number of specialist schools and academies
- the practice across local authorities for informing the School’s Adjudicator of instances where schools do not adhere to the admissions Code of Practice.
Furthermore, because of the limited nature of the data sources used for the probe, it was recognised that there were, potentially, other areas that could be explored in more detail, perhaps through further probes:
- a comparison of issues in primary and in secondary school admissions
- a comparison of issues in rural and urban areas
- the impact of school achievement and attainment tables on parental choice of school
- the impact of admissions policies on specific vulnerable groups
- any international comparisons of the admission system in England.
This report was originally intended as a working document for internal use within LGA only. Whilst acknowledging the purpose for which the probe was intended, and the limitations of the search methodology, it was subsequently decided that the report should be made more widely available in the hope that it may be useful to a wider audience.
Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Education and Skills Committee (2004). Secondary Education: School Admissions. Fourth Report of Session 2003-04. Volume 1:Report, Together with Formal Minutes (HC 58-I). London: The Stationery Office.
Office for Standards in Education and Audit Commission (2003b). School Place Planning: the Influence of School Place Planning on School Standards and Social Inclusion (HMI 587).
West, A. (2003). Secondary School Admissions in England: Memorandum Submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills.
How to cite this publication:
Archer, T. and Fletcher-Campbell, F. (2005). Admissions/Place Planning Probe (LGA Research Report 10/05). Slough: NFER.