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Schools: Catholic Schools

House of Lords written question – answered on 15th October 2012.

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Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether residents of local authorities have a right to decline a place for their children at any existing or new primary or secondary school in the authority area that is regarded as a Catholic school within the purview of a Catholic diocese; and, if so, whether the local education authority is under a duty to offer a place at an alternative school within the area that is within reasonable travelling distance.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Regulations give all parents the right, when applying for a school place, to express a preference for a minimum of three schools and, in some areas, local authorities extend this up to six schools. Local authorities are required to provide parents with information on the admissions arrangements of all state funded schools in their area. This should include whether any schools intend to apply a faith-based criterion in the event that more applications are received than there are places available. Parents may express a preference for any state funded school, regardless of whether it is in the local authority area in which they live.

Local authorities co-ordinate all school place offers to parents in their area, ensuring that every parent receives an offer that is the highest possible preferred school place available, taking account of all applications and published criteria. If the place that is offered is further than the statutory walking distances, and is the nearest suitable school, then the local authority must provide free transport. In all other cases, the local authority has the discretion to determine what, if any, support is offered to the child.

Parents can decline the place offered and have the right to appeal against the decision not to offer a place at one of their other preferred schools. Appeals must be heard by an independent panel and provide parents with an opportunity to present their case as to why their child should be offered a place at their preferred school.

In the event that a child continues to be out of school, every local authority must operate a fair access protocol (FAP), which is a set of locally agreed processes between the local authority and the schools in its area. These FAPs are intended to ensure that all hard to place children are found a school place as quickly as possible. The School Admissions Code sets out a list of groups of children that all FAPs must cover as a minimum. Other criteria such as reasonable travelling distance and other factors are left to local agreement. There is no requirement that FAPs take any account of parental preferences in placing a child in a school.

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