Pupils who change schools during term-time have to navigate a challenging system, which leads to some children missing out on their education, a new report by London Councils has revealed.
A considerable number of families who have to apply for a school place for their children through this complex system face unnecessary delays, resulting in some children missing out on education for weeks or months.
Some of these delays are due to time taken for referrals to Fair Access Protocols, and the Secretary of State in the more challenging cases, which can sometimes have a detrimental impact on pupils’ wellbeing and results. In-year admissions in years 10 and 11 pose particular challenges as schools have less time to prepare these pupils for exams.
Boroughs are not always told if a child is rejected by a school in-year, which means there is the potential for councils and other services to lose touch with them and their family, leading to greater safeguarding and wellbeing risks.
Across 27 London boroughs, more than 75,000 in-year admissions were received from September 2021 to July 2022. For context, across London 85,000 children were offered a place to start primary school in September 2023, the usual point in the year for school admissions.
In-year admission applications have increased significantly in London in recent years. This is due to several factors, including families moving to different boroughs due to changes in working patterns, while others move into London from other parts of the UK and abroad. London boroughs also continue to receive a disproportionately high number of refugee and asylum-seeking children and families compared to other regions in England.
In-year admissions can also be challenging for schools as no immediate funding is made available by the Department for Education when these children join. Current funding is on a per-pupil basis, and for children who join the school after the census in October, the school will not receive any funding until the next October.
The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the current system for children, families, schools and local authorities, beginning with greater powers for councils to have oversight of all in year admissions. This would allow fair allocations of pupil numbers in schools by making sure that undersubscribed schools are not forced to admit an excessive number of pupils in-year.
It also recommends an increase in powers for local authorities to direct any state-funded school to admit a child where appropriate, while being fully funded to do so.
Alongside this, it proposes an adjustment in funding based on the January school census, instead of the October census, so schools receive funding for higher pupil numbers across all year groups. This process is currently only used for reception year school rolls.
The report also calls for greater guidance on how schools can handle in-year admissions, particularly at GCSE years, to set expectations for what a school can reasonably do to support pupils given limited time and resources. It also calls for Ofsted to take in-year admissions practices into account when evaluating how a school is performing.
Cllr Ian Edwards, London Councils Executive Member for Schools and Young Children, said:
“London Councils shares the government’s commitment to ensure all children, especially the most vulnerable in our society, are safe and have access to an excellent education. But boroughs need greater powers to bring about the necessary changes to create a system that is faster, fairer and more simple to navigate.
“Not only is it unacceptable that some pupils are missing out on their education as a result of the complexities of this system, but it also poses unnecessary safeguarding risks as children missing education are less likely to have contact with statutory agencies. This means there is potential for them to fall off the radar if a council is not informed that a pupil has been denied a place via the in-year admissions process.
“We look forward to working with government and head teachers across the capital to ensure local authorities have oversight of all in year admissions to decrease disruption to children and schools, as proposed in the Schools White Paper last year.”
Notes to editors:
1) To view the full report, please visit the London Councils website.