Parent calls Redbridge Council’s change in school admission policy ‘unfair’ after adjudicator partially upholds it

Cllr Elaine Norman said she fully supported the schools adjudicator's decision partially upholding t

Cllr Elaine Norman said she fully supported the schools adjudicator's decision partially upholding the council's policy to give sibling priority to families who live within a mile of their school. - Credit: Redbridge Council

Redbridge Council’s change in primary school admissions policy, where sibling priority is lost if the family move more than a mile away, has been partially upheld by the schools’ adjudicator.

The policy, which was put in place for the 2020 academic year, gives placement priorities to families who live within a mile of their school.

The change meant that anyone who moved to live more than a mile from the school would not get sibling priority for younger children to be admitted into the same school.

After a parent raised an objection with the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA), the policy was upheld but with a caveat that if a family already has a child in a Redbridge school and they move closer, they should still get priority, even if they live more than one mile away.

At the same time, someone who originally lived within the one mile zone but moved 1.1 miles away could lose out.

In 2019 (before the policy was in place) the furthest distance a family lived away from their school was 15.4 miles.

In theory if that family moved to be 15.3 miles away from the school they would still get priority over a family who had moved just 1.1 miles away.

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The parent who raised the objection (who didn’t wish to be named) said the adjudicator’s decision presented an unfair situation.

The father of four, whose oldest child goes to school in Ilford, can no longer get priority for his younger children now that he has moved to Barking.

Barking and Dagenham Council has an unconditional sibling priority, which means children who have older siblings already in a school will get priority over someone who doesn’t.

Cllr Elaine Norman, Redbridge’s cabinet member for children and young people, said the OSA ruled the original policy was “fair and proportionate” and she supports the recommendation the sibling oversubscription criteria should still apply when a parent moves closer to the school, but still lives more than a mile away.

“We fully support this recommendation as it supports our ambition for local children to be prioritised. We will update the recommendation to our admission arrangements as soon as possible.”

The parent who raised the objection said upholding the main part of the policy puts families who rent their homes at a disadvantage because renters move more often.

He said: “In Barking, I don’t have sibling priority, so my child has got admission in a school which is quite distant from my home and it will not be possible for me to send my two kids to two different schools in the morning.

“If every authority started restricting based on distance and ignore siblings etc then there is effectively only a limited benefit of the central admission system.”

The council argued to the OSA that part of the reason it changed its policy was to reduce car journeys and if families live within a mile of each school it would cut down on air pollution.

The adjudicator Deborah Pritchard said she was “not convinced” there would be a significant reduction in car journeys as a result of the removal of sibling priority.

In 2020, 45 children whose families had moved outside of the one mile zone were refused a place because of the introduction of the new policy.

That group included 28 Redbridge residents, 25 of whom the council said were offered a place at a lower preference, closer to their home.

Of those, 20 children were offered places at a school within a mile of their new home.

In the decision Mrs Pritchard said the introduction of the new qualification appeared “on balance” to achieve its purpose “in supporting children living closer to a school to have priority over those living further away”.

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