Watchdog warns primary schools over ‘unfair’ admission policies

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Children should not miss out on school places because they did not attend the right nursery, an official report warns.

Some primaries are giving unfair priority to youngsters who went to certain pre-schools, according to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA).

It also raises concerns about the practice by many popular schools of prioritising places for the younger brothers and sisters of their pupils, suggesting that it is putting other children at a disadvantage.

In her second annual report, chief schools adjudicator Dr Elizabeth Passmore says her office had received more than 20 objections this year over primaries prioritising reception class places for children who attended certain nurseries.

The school admissions code, which covers England only, does not say whether primary schools are allowed to do this, the report says, but added that the system could be unfair for a number of reasons. For example, it is unfair if the number of places in a school’s nursery means that if a child does not attend it, they are unlikely to win a spot at the primary school, the report suggests.

And it is unfair if a child gains a place at a primary because they attended a nursery that operated a first-come-first-served system, or because their parents had paid a fee to register to be considered for the nursery.

The report concludes: “The practice of some primary schools of giving priority for admission to the reception year to children who have attended particular nursery provision has been found to be unfair to other local children.”

Dr Passmore’s report suggests that there are issues over schools giving priority places to siblings of pupils. It says that at a time of a squeeze on school places, there is a danger that first-born children or those new to an areas could be denied places.

But the report says there is “no easy solution” to the issue.