Concern over change to school admission rules for 'pupil premium' children

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Disadvantaged children who attend a nursery attached to a primary could be given priority over a place at the school, under Government proposals.

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The Government is proposing making changes to the School Admissions Code

In a consultation launched today, the Department for Education proposes revising the School Admissions Code to enable primary schools to give priority admission to children who attended the school’s own nursery, provided they are eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP), Pupil Premium or Service Premium.

The EYPP for three- and four-year-olds will be brought in from April 2015.

Under the proposals, state schools would also be allowed to give priority admission to children eligible for the Pupil Premium or Service Premium.

Pupil Premium funding is allocated to schools for children who are eligible for Free School Meals, while the Service Premium is paid to schools and local authorities where children’s parents are currently or have previously served in the Armed Forces.

The idea behind the proposed revisions is to improve the ‘fair and open’ allocation of places in maintained schools and academies, as well as support social mobility by allowing admissions authorities to give priority for school places to disadvantaged children.

However, there would be no legal requirement for admissions authorities to include such a priority in their admissions arrangements, but they would have the freedom to do so if they wished.

The DfE says it hopes that the proposed changes will encourage more schools to set up nurseries and expand capacity to provide more early education places.

Other changes being considered to the Code include clarifying the provisions relating to the admission of summer-born children to aid decision-making

The Pre-School Learning Alliance has voiced its concerns about the Government’s plans for priority admission, which it says will place children that attend private, voluntary and independent settings at an ‘unfair disadvantage’.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said, ‘Parents of eligible children who might have preferred to place their child with a local childminder or at a local PVI group setting may feel under pressure to instead opt for a school-based nursery to have a better chance of securing a place at that same school later on.

'We are concerned that this is yet another example of the Government pushing for a more school-focused early years system at the expense of the PVI sector, and about the potentially detrimental impact this could have on children and families.’

The consultation closes on 29 September.