Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

School wins ruling on admissions

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The adjudicator had previously said admission rules were discriminatory

A high-performing London secondary school has won its court bid to overturn a ruling that it should change its admissions rules.

Drayton Manor High School in Ealing had been told by the admissions adjudicator that its rules for allocating places discriminated against poorer families.

However the school has successfully contested the ruling in the high court.

This means that the school's original rules will apply for children applying for places for September 2009.

Head teacher Sir Pritpal Singh says he was "extremely angry" that it had needed a court case to vindicate his school's admissions rules.

The complaint, brought by Ealing council and upheld by the adjudicator, had been that the school's policy of only admitting children for whom the school was their closest could discriminate against those in poorer areas.

As such the adjudicator had told Drayton Manor High School to switch to a strictly distance criteria - admitting children who live closest to it, regardless of their proximity to any other schools.

But Judge Stewart, sitting at the High Court in London, decided that the adjudicator had failed to give adequate reasons for ordering such a change.

'Parents unaware'

The complaint had been that some families living less than a mile from the school were not being admitted because they were slightly closer to another neighbouring school, Brentside High School.

That school is lower down the league tables.

The complaint was made to England's schools adjudicator by the local education authority, Ealing, which argued that the existing arrangements went against the new admissions code.

The council said the arrangements meant most children living between half a mile and a mile away from the school would not get a place at Drayton Manor unless they had a brother or sister there already.

It argued that the policy favoured families in the more affluent areas to the east of the school and discriminated against those in the more disadvantaged areas to the north.

In his ruling, the adjudicator had said the present policy indirectly discriminated against children from poorer parts of the borough.

He said: "The council points to what it considers to be widespread confusion and frustration among parents living close to the school, who cannot understand why they are unlikely to be successful given the proximity of their homes to the school."

'Cohesion'

In its evidence to the adjudicator, the school argued its intake was balanced and reflected the diversity of the wider community and that it was too late to change its admissions arrangements for 2009.

The school says the present arrangements were brought in to encourage applications to Brentside High School at a time when it was "significantly under-subscribed with pupils walking past the school on their way to Drayton Manor, with the associated negative consequences for social integration and community cohesion".

It said it had revised its admissions arrangements in recent years "to take account of developing circumstances and the requirements of the [admissions] Code", dropping an additional feeder schools policy.

However the adjudicator had ruled in favour of the complaint brought by the local authority - saying the school's admissions process excluded a significant number of local families who might want to find places in a sought-after school.

As the admissions deadline was so close, the application deadline had been extended until mid-November, to take account of the adjudicator's call for revised rules.

However the court ruling means a return to the original admissions rules.

Legal duty

Councils now have a duty to refer to the adjudicator admissions criteria in their areas which they believe to be unfair.

A spokeswoman for Ealing Council said: "As acknowledged in court, Ealing Council's action in referring our and Brentside High's concerns about Drayton Manor High's admission policy to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator was entirely proper and the only course of action open to us.

"We have a legal duty to refer objections about admission criteria that may be unfair to this independent body.

"There was concern that Drayton Manor High's 'nearest high school' criteria may discriminate against some children living near the school.

"Throughout this process our priority has been to protect the interests of all parents as they make this important decision for their children and following the High Court decision we will now be writing to them to tell them the criteria for 2009 remains unchanged."

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SEE ALSO
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School place deadline is extended
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09 Oct 08 |  Education
Schools breaching admissions code
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