School Admissions Code

Part of Committee of Public Accounts – in the House of Commons at 9:49 pm on 10th October 2016.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 9:49 pm, 10th October 2016

I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking part in the debate this time last year, and I am grateful to him for being here again this evening. What he describes is indeed what I want, and I think it is what the Minister wants. We are here to gently push the Minister slightly further in the right direction, slightly faster.

My third point is that, as the Minister will know, one real problem is that when local authorities agree to a child’s entry being delayed, they do not all allow that child to remain with the same cohort through their whole educational life.

Finally, I want to make the case once more that in the consultation the Minister should consider using a premature child’s due date for admissions rather than the date on which they were born. That would be a simple change but would change many children’s lives.

Following last year’s debate, the Minister helpfully wrote to local authorities up and down the country setting out the Government’s intention to amend the school admissions code to provide some more flexibility, which we would all like to see. Following that letter, a number of authorities, including Wandsworth, Cumbria, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Devon and even my own local authority of Merton, have been much more generous in allowing parents to choose when their child should start school. That has been a huge relief for parents and made a difference to a number of children, and I thank the Minister on their behalf. A parent from Hertfordshire wrote to me explaining that their local authority had made some quick and simple changes to admissions, which had allowed their premature child to start a year later.

I know from emails sent to me over the past month, however, that parents up and down the country are still experiencing a problem, as many local authorities are reluctant to change their policy until they are forced to do so by the Minister and the Department, and we see the change to the code. That is leading to the postcode lottery I described earlier, whereby whether someone’s child has the opportunity to reach their full potential depends on where someone lives—

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—(Heather Wheeler.)