Were the changes properly consulted on?
15(b) Admission authorities must set (‘determine’) admission arrangements annually. Where changes are proposed to admission arrangements, the admission authority must first publicly consult on those arrangements. If no changes are made to admission arrangements, they must be consulted on at least every 7 years. Consultation must be for a minimum of 8 weeks and must take place between 1 November and 1 March of the year before those arrangements are to apply. For example: for arrangements which are to apply to applications in 2012 (entry in September 2013), consultation must be completed by 1 March 2012. This consultation period allows parents, other schools, religious authorities and the local community to raise any concerns about proposed admission arrangements.
15(c) Once all arrangements have been determined, arrangements can be objected to and referred to the Schools Adjudicator by 30 June. Any decision of the Adjudicator must be acted on by the admission authority and admission arrangements amended accordingly.
I don't think it has anything to do with academy status. It's the new Admissions Code that allows children of staff to be prioritised in certain circumstances.
This Code comes into force on 1 February 2012 and, unless otherwise stated, applies with immediate effect. It will apply to admission arrangements determined in 2012 for admission in school year 2013/14. The Code applies to admissions to all maintained schools in England. It should be read alongside the School Admission Appeals Code and other guidance and law that affect admissions and admission appeals in England.
Academies are required by their funding agreements to comply with the Code and the law relating to admissions, though the Secretary of State has the power to vary this requirement where there is demonstrable need.
Children of staff at the school
1.39 Admission authorities may give priority in their oversubscription criteria to children of staff in either or both of the following circumstances:
a) where the member of staff has been employed at the school for two or more years at the time at which the application for admission to the school is made, and/or
b) the member of staff is recruited to fill a vacant post for which there is a demonstrable skill shortage.