Councils must be able to force academies to take in ‘hard to place' children
LGA press release 3 February 2017
Councils must be given the power to direct academy schools to take in ‘hard to place' students, including those excluded from other schools, if those places available are best for the children, council leaders stressed today.
Currently, councils only have the power to tell maintained schools to admit excluded pupils. Where they consider a local academy school as being the most suitable for a particular child, they currently have to apply to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) which makes the final decision.
Government statistics show that nine out of ten hard to place children end up being refused entry to an academy school with only 15 of the 121 students put forward to the EFA being accepted into an academy.
The decision to require a school to take in a particular pupil is made following careful local discussion and is made in the best interests of the child in question. Councils are now becoming increasingly worried that their advice to the EFA is being repeatedly ignored. They believe that civil servants in Whitehall should not be allowed to second-guess local decision making.
With councils having a statutory duty to ensure every child receives a good education, the Local Government Association, which represents over 370 councils across England and Wales, is calling on government to help councils do the best for every child in ensuring they are placed in a school that best suits their needs and ambitions.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said:
"Councils have a statutory duty to ensure that all children have a school place and are receiving a good education.
"By ignoring local council advice the EFA is allowing academies to effectively choose the children they want to admit.
"There are far stronger safeguards in place to ensure maintained schools do not cherry pick their pupils and the same measures should be in place for all academies.
"Decisions about individual children should be made in the best interest of each child, not to protect favoured schools. These decisions are best made locally by parents and councils who know each child best.
"It is now vital that councils are urgently given the powers to take these decisions locally, based on their local knowledge of the children, families and schools involved."
2 February 2017