Controversial schools admissions process used in Mansfield and Ashfield is ‘lawful’, OSA rules

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A controversial admissions process that has outraged parents and forced siblings to attend different schools has been ruled as ‘lawful’.

New rules mean there is no longer a priority given to pupils with a sibling at the school, if they live out of the catchment area.

But the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, the government body that helps to clarify the legal position on admissions policies in schools, has said the process used in Ashfield and Mansfield is not breaking any rules.

Angry parents say new school admission rules forcing their children to attend different schools in Ashfield and Mansfield have created a nightmare situation for their families.

Hundreds of people signed a petition calling for Nottinghamshire County Council to change its new school admission rules in September last year.

Marion Clay, acting service director for education standards and inclusion at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “We welcome the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) judgement which has taken too long in our view.

“The adjudicator’s decision confirms that the approach taken to setting admission criteria by this authority is lawful and reasonable and we welcome this.

“Whilst the judgement relates solely to High Oakham Primary School in Mansfield, the County Council intends to consider applying the ruling for all community and voluntary primary schools across Nottinghamshire.

“We know some parents affected by the new admission arrangements, introduced in September 2016, will be disappointed and we acknowledge the anxiety and frustration they will have experienced and will continue to experience.

“It should be noted that the adjudicator is clear that no retrospective action is required by the County Council in respect of the admissions processes for previous years, including for September 2017.

“Following on from yesterday’s (31 Jan) decision by the OSA, members on the Children and Young People’s Committee (CYP) will now consider the adjudicator’s arguments and judgements before determining the 2018/19 admission arrangements.

“The Schools Adjudicator’s report raises a number of complex issues. It is important to note that most of the complaints raised were dismissed. However, the Schools Adjudicator is of the view that the admissions arrangements were unfair to some applicants and the council accepts that view and the binding nature of the decision.

“Nottinghamshire is proud that more than nine out of 10 parents in 2016 secured their first preferred school.

“The fact is that popular schools will always be over-subscribed and whatever the admissions criteria are for those schools, the likelihood is there will be some disappointed families.

“Since September 2013, Nottinghamshire County Council has invested almost £70m of government money to create in excess of 5,500 new school places. In addition, the council is currently looking at plans for a further 400 new school places at a cost of £5m for September this year.