DETERMINATION Case reference: ADA/000684 Objector: Hampshire County Council Admission Authority: Cams Hill School Date of decision: 22 April 2005 Determination In accordance with section 90 (3) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, I uphold the objection to the admission arrangements determined by Cams Hill School. I determine that for admissions in September 2006 oversubscription criterion (c) giving priority to children of staff should be deleted. The referral 1. Hampshire County Council has referred an objection to the Adjudicator about the admission arrangements (“the arrangements”) for Cams Hill School (“the school”), a Foundation secondary school, for September 2006. The objection is to the inclusion in the school’s admission arrangements of a criterion giving priority to the children of staff. Jurisdiction 2. These arrangements were determined under section 89(4) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (“the Act”) by the governing body which is the admissions authority for the school. The arrangements were notified to the objector in a letter dated 7 February 2005. The County Council submitted its objection to these determined arrangements on 17 March. 3. Paragraph 9(2)(b) of The Education (Objection to Admission Arrangements) Regulations 1999 makes clear that an objection can be referred to criteria which are the same or substantially the same as those against which an earlier objection was upheld. The County Council claims, and I agree, that these regulations allow me to consider the objection. I am satisfied that this objection has been properly referred to me in accordance with section 90(1) of the Act, and that it falls within my jurisdiction. Procedure 4. In coming to my conclusions, I have had full regard to the Act and Regulations made thereunder, the Code of Practice on School Admissions (“the Code”) and all the evidence presented so far as it is relevant to the objection. I have also had regard to the Human Rights Act 1998 and, as required by Schedule 5 to the Act, to the relevant provisions of: The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 The Race Relations Act 1976 The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 5. The documents I have considered in reaching my decision include: i. the County Council’s letter of objection of 17 March and supporting documents; ii. the school’s response to the objection dated 13 April and supporting documentation; iii. the current School Organisation Plan for Hampshire; iv. the Council’s booklet for parents seeking admission to schools in the area in September 2006 ; v. maps of the area identifying relevant schools. vi. Determinations of adjudicators on the admission arrangements at the school dated 28 June 2002 and 7 June 2004. Context 6. Hampshire County Council has for some years objected to admission criteria which give priority to children of staff. The matter has been discussed several times in the admission forum and there has been agreement that giving priority to children of staff does not accord with the principle that schools should prefer children who live locally. Cams Hill School included a criterion giving priority to children of staff in the arrangements for admission for several years. As a result, between one and three children of staff a year, who otherwise would not have been able to gain entry, were admitted to the school. In 2002 Hampshire County Council objected to the adjudicator on the grounds that priority for children of staff was discouraged by the then Code. The adjudicator recognised that both the school and the County Council had advanced good arguments but, on balance, was persuaded by those put forward by the school. Hampshire County Council again objected to the inclusion of this criteria within the schools arrangements for September 2005. By then a new Code was in place. In a determination dated 7 June 2004, the second adjudicator upheld the objection and directed that the criterion giving priority to children of staff should be deleted. The school has now notified the County Council that it intends to reinstate priority for children of staff. A copy of the determined arrangements for 2006 is attached at Annex 1. The Objection and Response 7. In submitting the objection, the County Council claim that the continued use of the criterion giving priority to staff potentially restricts the operation of parental preference; discriminates on the basis of parental occupation, thus disadvantaging social groups from which teachers are less likely to come forward; and contravenes the equal opportunity legislation. The letter of objection quotes the Code of Practice in support of these objections. 8. The response by the school is that the practice of giving priority to children of staff has been in place for many years and has proved beneficial to all the children in the school. Many staff (including non-teaching staff) prefer their children to attend the school where they work. The school says that it does not use the criterion as an aid to recruitment and makes no mention of it in advertisements. It claims that the priority given to children of staff has a significant effect on the “morale and well-being” of the staff concerned which brings advantages to all children in the school. Other parents felt that the presence of staff children in the school amounts to a vote of confidence by the staff from which they are able to derive encouragement and support. Finally the school emphasises that local children are not displaced by the children of staff. The school is now able to accept all children from the “curriculum linked” local primary schools. It remains oversubscribed because of applications from children living some distance away and it is some of these children who will not be admitted because of the priority given to staff children. Consideration and Conclusion 9. In considering this case, I must have regard to the Code of Practice, paragraph 3.12 of which states: “It would not be good practice for admission authorities to set or seek to apply oversubscription criteria that had the effect of disadvantaging certain social groups in the local community, including disabled pupils. Examples would be explicit or implicit discrimination on the basis of parental occupation, employment, income range, standards of living or home facilities.” This guidance does not mean that I should rule in favour of the objection without thoroughly considering the case. I should, however, not rule in the school’s favour unless it advances good arguments in favour of retaining the criterion. 10. My first conclusion is that there is one argument from the County Council that I should not regard as central to my decision. The County Council has claimed that giving priority to children of staff might offend against equal opportunities or race relations legislation. They claim that children of staff may be admitted at the expense of others from a deprived social group or from an ethnic minority. However, the County Council has not produced any evidence showing whether the children of staff are less likely to be from an ethnic minority or deprived social background than those who would otherwise have been admitted so I cannot uphold the objection on those grounds. 11. My main conclusion is that it is unfair to give priority to children of staff rather than other children whose parents do not work in the school and who otherwise would have a better case for a place. The effect of the criterion is to give places to some children who live further from the school than some others who do not get a place, solely because the successful children have parents who work at the school. Oversubscription criteria should be directed towards the needs of the children who are being considered for admission, not their parents. Public services should not be in the business of granting benefits to the families of people who work in them. The school argues that it is more convenient for staff with school age children if their children are at their own school. I am sure that is true. However, the parents of children who do not get a place might have found it equally convenient for other reasons if their children had been admitted. 12. The school goes on to argue that because the staff with children attending the school have “higher morale and well-being” as a result of the attendance of their children at the school, they perform better to the benefit of all the children. If that is true, the morale of parents of children who did not get places would have improved if they had been allocated them. They would have performed better in their no doubt equally worthy jobs. Finally, the school claims that other parents see the attendance of staff children as a vote of confidence in the school. There may be some truth in that claim but the impact must be insignificant. Determination 13. In accordance with section 90 (3) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, I uphold the objection to the admission arrangements determined by Cams Hill School. 14. I determine that for admissions in September 2006 oversubscription criterion (c) giving priority to children of staff should be deleted. Dated: 22 April 2005 Signed: Schools Adjudicator: Dr Philip Hunter Annex 1 Admission Criteria to be used in the event of Over-Subscription (In Priority Order) a. Children who are in the care of the local authority or provided with accommodation by that authority in accordance with Section 22 of the Children Act 1989. (A letter from Social Services confirming the child's status must be provided.) b. Children who have a medical, physical or psychological condition which makes it essential that they attend Cams Hill School rather than any other. (Appropriate medical or psychological evidence must be provided in support) c. Children of Staff. d. Siblings of children who are attending the School. e. Children on the Roll of Curriculum Linked Schools, viz, Harrison County Primary School, Uplands County Primary School and Wicor County Primary School and who live within the catchment areas of Harrison County Primary or Uplands County Primary (as designated in September 1998) or within that part of the Wicor County Primary catchment area historically designated to Cams Hill School by the Hampshire COUNTY COUNCIL and marked on the map which is held at the School and can be viewed by any interested party on request. f. Children on the Roll of Curriculum Linked Schools, viz, Harrison County Primary School, Uplands County Primary School and Wicor County Primary School but who do not live within the catchment areas of Harrison County Primary or Uplands County Primary or within that part of the Wicor County Primary catchment area historically designated to Cams Hill School by the Hampshire COUNTY COUNCIL and marked on the map which is held at the School and can be viewed by any interested party on request. g. Children living at addresses historically designated by the Hampshire LEA to Cams Hill School but not covered by any of the above criteria. h. Proximity of the child's home to the School with those nearest being accorded the highest priority. Measurement will be by ruler on a map, from the centre of the School (Main Block) to the exact location of the family home, confirmed by a site visit where necessary. Notes: 1. All information and criteria appertaining at the closing date of application will apply for the initial allocation of places. Any changes of status, address or other circumstances will then be taken into account for all subsequent processes, including Appeals. 2. Places will be reserved within the published admission number for children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs before the official closing date for application, where part four of the Statement names that school. 3. Under Criterion b., supporting evidence from a doctor or appropriate professional should show specifically and conclusively why a child should attend this School rather than any other. 4. When, within anyone criterion, all other determining factors are equal, then the child or children living nearest to the School will be accorded priority. 5. The School reserves the right to determine that the address of residence given for any child applying to the School is, in fact, the usual domicile of that child and his/her parent(s) or guardian(s). If any application giving an address that on investigation is found to be that of any other person, whether a close relative or not, then that application shall be disqualified. 6. Distances are measured on a map using a straight line radius from the centre of the School (Main Block) to the centre of the pupil’s house.