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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:43 pm 
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Location: West Watford
Hi,

Just wondering, if during this 8 week consultation period before the 1st March, there are responses to a school's published admissions criteria, whether there is any obligation on the schools, to take any notice of them?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:47 pm 
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Location: Watford, Herts
C. J. wrote:
Just wondering, if during this 8 week consultation period before the 1st March, there are responses to a school's published admissions criteria, whether there is any obligation on the schools, to take any notice of them?

The have to "consider" the responses they get, but are not bound to act on them. Final versions of the arrangements must be determined by mid-April. After then parents can raise objections to unlawful provisions, and admissions authorities and schools can also object if their concerns were not met. Do you have something specific in mind?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:41 pm 
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The Watford Grammar schools could apply to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator for a variation to their arrangements in respect of sibling links between the schools, citing para 2.22 "Some schools give priority to children on the basis that they have an older sibling at another school with which they have close links (such as where two or more schools are located on the same or adjoining sites); again this should be made clear in their admission arrangements." as a major change.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:08 pm 
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Location: Watford, Herts
C. J. wrote:
The Watford Grammar schools could apply to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator for a variation to their arrangements in respect of sibling links between the schools, citing para 2.22 "Some schools give priority to children on the basis that they have an older sibling at another school with which they have close links (such as where two or more schools are located on the same or adjoining sites); again this should be made clear in their admission arrangements." as a major change.

Yes, they could, and they might consider it worth it, though every encounter with a new adjudicator has risks for them. So your thinking is that a lot of feedback from parents during the consultation might encourage them to try this, and might bolster the case they present to the adjudicator? Sounds possible. Have you heard any noises from the schools?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2009 9:01 am 
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There has been a statement that 'they are not seeking a variation at this stage'. I think they are very concerned about their other criteria (though I personally don't think the risks are that great, but its not my risk). I believe they are sympathetic to parents who already have an older child at one of the schools and have been disadvantaged, but they are, I think quite correctly, being very careful not to show partizanship, particularly with prospective 2009 appeals looming.

The suggestion of a variation actually came from a letter from Sarah McCarthy-Fry (the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) on 3-12-08 containing the following passage: "If the two Watford schools wish to re-introduce the cross-sibling criterion for 2010 admissions they will need to apply to the Adjudicator for a variation to their arrangements, on the basis that there has been a major change in circumstances since the determination.â€


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 1:15 am 
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The Admissions Code doesn't seem to cover this situation. It deals with in-year variations after arrangements are determined, but that's a different provision. The relevant primary and secondary legislation is:
  1. Section 88L of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (inserted by section 151 of the Education and Skills Act 2008):
    Quote:
    88L. Restriction on alteration of admission arrangements following adjudicator's decision
    ...
    (6) Regulations may prescribe circumstances in which, in a case where this section applies, an admission authority may refer to the adjudicator proposals to determine or vary their admission arrangements in a way which alters the protected provisions.
  2. Section 33 of the The School Admissions (Admission Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2008:
    Quote:
    33. Restriction on alteration of admission arrangements following adjudicator's decision
    ...
    (3) For the purposes of section 88L(6) the prescribed circumstances are that there has been a major change in circumstances since the beginning of the period prescribed by paragraph (1).

    (paragraph (1) sets out the length of the protected period: the year of the determination plus 2 years.)
It's vague about timing, but it seems that the schools should refer any proposals to vary protected provisions to the adjudicator before they determine their arrangements (which they must do by mid-April).


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 12:34 pm 
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My understanding is that in-year variation (changing the arrangements for a year after they have been determined) is a different thing from seeking to determine arrangements that would vary a provision protected by an adjudication. They're governed by different sections of the legislation (88E and 88L respectively). Both need approval from an adjudicator, but the conditions for the former are quite restrictive: the arrangements would usually need to be in violation of the Code or an adjudicator's judgement on another school. To apply for the latter, you only need "a major change in circumstances", and revision of the Code should count as that.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 10:03 pm 
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Thanks WP.
I suspect our major problem may be getting the schools to apply for the variation, which is frustrating.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:54 pm 
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I think it is particularly frustrating because at the open meeting following the adjudicators decision last September both schools were urging parents to lobby MPs to press for a change in the admissions rules. So having apparently successfully motivated the parent body and got the amendments they were seeking the schools now won't apply for the variation! Of course I understand their reluctance to re-engage with the adjudicator but it is nuts and very frustrating. Hopefully enough parents will now have written to the schools and convinced them to change their minds.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:34 pm 
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There is a letter dated 2nd April on the WGGS website, saying that the schools consider that the revised wording in the Admissions Code does not amount to a "material change of circumstance", so they will not be trying to re-instate the cross-sibling criterion (at least not this year and presumably the next).


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