Free Schools have been criticised for running a selection process when admitting pupils. According to Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Free Schools are cherry picking the brightest and wealthiest pupils despite being established in order to serve disadvantaged areas.
In response to the latest claims, it is hard to see how Free Schools can get away with a selection process when they are subjected to the same admissions rules as all other state schools. Free Schools have to abide by the same Admissions Code as all state-financed schools and Governing Bodies are not able to select pupils based on their financial or academic status. Critics argue that there is not enough supervision of Free Schools meaning that selection processes cannot be monitored effectively but despite a lack of monitoring, would an unhappy parent walk away from a decision they thought was unfair? Parents wishing to challenge the admission arrangements of a Free School can complain to the Schools Adjudicator and researchers claim that 1 in 20 parents challenge a decision.
The School Admissions Code is also currently under review and the Department for Education hopes to improve the fair admission of mainstream schools, Free Schools and Academies. The changes are designed to support social mobility by allowing admission authorities to give priority for school places to disadvantaged children. Amongst the proposed changes, Schools will be able to prioritise children from the poorest backgrounds, specifically those eligible for pupil premium or service premium funding. Both pupil premium and service premium funding are subsidy systems giving schools additional payments for pupils receiving free school meals or pupils with parents in the armed forces.
Critics are already claiming that the proposed changes to the Admissions Code will in fact lead to the further ‘cherry picking’ of pupils. It would seem that Free Schools should not be isolated here; admissions have and will continue to be controversial despite the type of School.
For more detail around the proposed changes to the Admissions Code, please click here.