When Academies were first introduced by the Labour Government they replaced what were deemed to be failing schools. When the Conservative Government came to office in 2010 they changed the emphasis so that schools that were deemed to be outstanding or good schools by Ofsted could convert to Academy status. The carrot that was dangled before these schools was that they could not only set their own admissions but also they would have greater freedom over the curriculum and would attract greater funds as they would not have to give a proportion of them to the local authority to enable them to meet their own obligations.
However, the upshot, whether by accident or design, is the proliferation of admission authorities and what has been referred to by many interested parties as a fragmentation of the admissions arrangements resulting a confusing picture for parents.
The Times Educational Supplement (TES) has recently reported that in May 2010 there were 203 Academies but now there are more than 5000 with each able to set their own admission arrangements. It is understood that discussions are taking place in the Department for Education about the possibility of introducing changes to make the process more straight forward and easier for parents to understand.
The introduction of Academies has resulted in a major change in the school and admission systems but a White Paper to be published later this year is likely to propose significant changes and may include options such as local authorities becoming responsible for making arrangements for school appeals and also for dealing with in year admissions. More dramatic proposals are also understood to be under consideration.
The School Admissions Code published in December 2014 requires admission arrangements to be clear, fair and objective so that it is reasonable for prospective parents to be able to understand how places will be allocated so that they are able to make an assessment as to the likely chances of a successful application. However, admission arrangements used by some Academies appear to be so complicated making it extremely difficult for parents to understand them and therefore make decisions based on a reasonable prospect of a successful application.
Of course any proposed changes will need to go though a long consultation period and so it will be some time before any changes can be implemented. At the present time any proposed changes take approximately two years before being implemented and so it will be some time before such changes will be introduced.