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5.34 The local authority’s democratic mandate to act on behalf of all its population also means that local authorities have a critical role in securing fair access to schools. They will continue to lead the coordination of admissions arrangements for all schools, and, to make the system more flexible, we will legislate to end the bureaucratic requirements for local authorities to establish an admissions forum and provide annual reports to a central schools adjudicator. Instead, local authorities’ role will be to make the process as fair and simple as possible for parents and pupils, setting up local arrangements which work for that area. The schools adjudicator will review specific complaints about admissions arrangements for all schools, including Academies and Free Schools, ensuring that every child has access to the same mechanisms where there are specific concerns.
5.35 All state schools including Academies and Free Schools are bound by the Admissions Code and participate in fair access protocols. We will simplify the Code so that it is easier for schools and parents to understand and act upon, while maintaining fairness as the Code’s guiding principle. We will retain the principles and priorities of the current Code, and Looked After Children and pupils with a statement of Special Education Needs which names a particular school (including Academies and Free Schools) will continue to be guaranteed a place at the school of their first choice. In order to promote fair access to high-performing schools, we will also consult on whether we should allow Academies and Free Schools to choose to prioritise children from disadvantaged backgrounds in their oversubscription criteria if they wish. We will consult on a simplified and less prescriptive Admissions Code early in the New Year so that a revised Code is in place by July 2011.
5.36 Local authorities will also retain responsibility for school transport arrangements which promote fair access.
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