Academies

Rotherham academies thought LA was in charge of admissions

Heads believed council was their admission authority – despite academies being in control of entry to their schools

Heads believed council was their admission authority – despite academies being in control of entry to their schools

Some secondary academies in Rotherham had no admissions arrangements after a “fundamental misunderstanding” that the council was instead responsible, the Office for the Schools Adjudicator has ruled.

Academy headteachers believed Rotherham Council was their admission authority – despite academies being in control of entry to their schools.

An investigation by the schools adjudicator (OSA), published this week, found that “most” academies in the area were “under the impression” that the council’s co-ordinated admission process “extended to, and in fact was the determined arrangements for, the schools”.

Co-ordinated admissions simplify the process for parents. But they do not take away academies’ duties to set their own criteria.

Heads confirmed to the OSA that “they thought that the local authority was the admission authority for the schools”, even though all 16 secondaries were academies.

The admission authorities for the schools were either the academy trust or the school’s governing board.

‘Fundamental misunderstanding’

The OSA concluded that “as a result of this fundamental misunderstanding, many of the schools had no determined arrangements”.

Nathan Heath, the council’s education assistant director, said a “number” of academies were following outdated admission arrangements determined by the council for local authority-maintained schools.

The OSA looked at the region after a complaint about one school’s arrangements. This was later withdrawn, but the OSA had already viewed schools’ policies.

After establishing the misunderstanding, each school created new arrangements. But in July last year, the OSA found three schools were still “non-compliant” with the admissions code and law.

Parts of the policies at Wales High School, Swinton Academy and St Bernard’s Catholic High School required “significant amendment”.

All had at least two-and-a half pages of quotes from the admissions code, which the OSA said could be “confusing and unhelpful to parents”.

At Swinton Academy, part of The Aston Community Education Trust, the governing body “did not fully understand their responsibilities” on annual checks on admissions policies.

Schools have two months to change tack

They also believed it was the council that defined a school’s catchment area, which the OSA said was contrary to the code and was the governors’ job.

The acting principal at St Bernard’s remained “under the impression that the process of administering the admission arrangements which is undertaken by the local authority (the co-ordinated scheme) is synonymous with the admission arrangements and this is not the case”.

The schools now have two months to revise their arrangements.

Rob Slade, an education lawyer at HCB Solicitors, said confusion around admissions was “not very common”, adding: “The code clearly sets out that the academy’s admission authority is the academy trust.

“If we are considering the impact on parents appealing decisions, if there are no determined arrangements it becomes much harder for to put appeals forward. It makes it much harder to make sure it’s handled fairly.”

Rotherham Council told the OSA it planned to “enhance” its admission services, including externally commissioned training for the council and academies in September.

Heath added: “Since being made aware of this issue, the council has been working in collaboration with local academies to support them in ensuring they have compliant admission arrangements, which includes the provision of any training and development needs.”

The schools did not respond to requests for comment.

More from this theme

Academies

Top of the trusts: Training the next generation of academy CEOs

What’s being done to develop the next generation of trust leaders? Schools Week investigates...

Lucas Cumiskey
Academies

Trusts urge DfE to launch independent schools regulator

CST adds voice to calls for independent body 'with same legal standing as Ofqual' and accountable to parliament

Jack Dyson
Academies

Academy trust top slicing is on the up (but do schools get better deal?)

As two trusts top-slice almost 10%, chiefs say running services in-house saves time and money for heads

Jack Dyson
Academies

Turnaround trusts say tide turning on recruiting converters

Wealth of lesson plans, specialist teaching teams and career paths helping to convince 'good' schools into turnarounds, CEOs say

Jack Dyson
Academies

Academise so LAs can’t close you, diocese tells schools

Leaked papers show 'key reason' for diocese's plans was to move school decisions away from councils

Jack Dyson
Academies

Barran wants more ‘good’ schools to join turnaround trusts

But academies minister reveals 'real challenge' of changing the 'joining a MAT is punishment' narrative

Jack Dyson

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Comments

  1. If you ever needed evidence that some SLT lack fundamental skills and knowledge to lead schools, this is that evidence. This is baseline basic knowledge which I would expect a lot of middle leaders to know, let alone senior.

  2. I echo JB here – I was once in a meeting where my deputy head showed that she had no understanding of how permanent exclusions work.

    There was a DHT from another school who put her right, but she wouldn’t accept it. She didn’t understand that the LA couldn’t over-rule the head, only provide its opinion to the governors + MAT.