Fair access

All local authorities must operate a Fair Access Protocol to make sure children considered hard to place and or vulnerable get school places, and that all schools admit their fair share of these children.

  • In year Fair Access Protocol for primary schools

    1. Introduction

    1.1 The School Admissions Code 2014 requires local authorities to have a Fair Access Protocol in place which ensures that access to education is secured quickly for children who have no school place and that all schools in an area admit their fair share of the most vulnerable children, including those whose behaviour has been challenging. All schools and academies1 must2 agree and participate in the Fair Access Protocol and will be expected to admit children above their published admissions number if the school is already full3.

    1.2 The Admissions Team would normally be the first point of contact for parents/carers resident in the Hammersmith & Fulham (H & F) seeking a school place for their child. In most cases, children will be allocated a school place in accordance with normal coordinated in-year admission procedures as set out in paragraph 5.

    1.3 This Protocol will apply to applicant children resident in H & F and is the mechanism for the placement of the minority of children where the normal procedures for in-year admissions would not be straight forward. The protocol does not apply to applications made in the managed round (first point of entry to reception).

    1.4 If children applying to H & F schools from another LA meet the threshold for placements under the H & F Protocol, the case will be referred to the home borough to implement their own In Year Fair Access Protocol.

    2. The local context

    2.1 The purpose of Fair Access Protocols is to ensure that (outside the normal admissions round) unplaced children, especially the most vulnerable, are found and offered a place quickly, so that the amount of time any child is out of school is kept to the minimum. Every local authority is required to have in place a Fair Access Protocol, developed in partnership with local schools. It is for each LA to set out the principles and processes of their Fair Access Protocol in agreement with schools and to ensure that it operates effectively at a local level.

    2.2 Unlike many London boroughs, H & F presently has surplus capacity across all year groups and can offer schools places to children new to the area, even though it may not be in a school of choice. The Protocol is therefore not required for this purpose.

    2.3 The Protocol will be reviewed regularly, when any changes to the local context will be considered.

    2.4 The local context requires that this LAs protocol will provide a clear, fair and transparent process to enable the placement of children identified as being vulnerable and/or having a high level of need but do not have a Statement or Education, Health & Care (EHC) plan in place.

    3. Scope of the Fair Access Protocol

    3.1 The aims of the Protocol are to:

    • To be fair and transparent and have the confidence of schools
    • To ensure that children identified for a Fair Access Placement are offered education provision appropriate to the child and their needs as quickly as possible
    • To ensure excluded children return to mainstream school as quickly as possible where it has been assessed as appropriate
    • To ensure that all schools in the area, including those that may not have places available admit their fair share of children who have had behavioural difficulties
    • To ensure that the LA will use provision so that the needs of pupils who are not ready for mainstream schooling are met
    • To ensure that children who are more vulnerable to missing education, which may in turn impact on their welfare, health and safety, wellbeing and educational opportunity are placed in a school as quickly as possible.
       

    4. Children to be included in the protocol

    4.1 Taking account of the above aims and the local context, the following groups of children will be included in this protocol:

    • children newly arrived in the area presenting a high level of need but without an EHC plan in place but with supporting information indicates he/she will need an ECH assessment
    • children newly arrived in the area presenting a high level of need with a statement of need that has been issued outside of the UK
    • permanently excluded pupils requiring reintegration to mainstream from AP
    • other hard to place pupils (as determined by Senior Admissions Managers).
       

    4.2 Children not included in the protocol In accordance with 3.12 of the Code, the provision of Fair Access will not apply to a looked after child, a previously looked after child or a child with an EHCP naming the school in question, as these children must be admitted to the school.

    5. Process for In-Year coordination

    5.1 Each LA will have an agreed scheme in place that sets out how applications made for schools outside of the normal admission round are processed. Local arrangements in H & F are set out in the ‘In-year coordinated Scheme’. Most primary schools in H & F fully participate in coordination.

    5.2 The few schools that accept applications direct are still required to provide the LA with the details of offers made, their roll number and vacancies in each year group.

    5.3 The operation of Fair Access Protocols is outside the arrangements of coordination and is triggered when it has been determined that a school placement cannot be made under the in-year admission procedures.

    6. Legislation that applies to admissions

    6.1 In order to consider the criteria to trigger a Fair Access placement, legislation that applies to admissions must firstly be considered. As set out in guidance issued by the DfE (November 2012), Fair Access Protocols must not be used to circumvent the normal in-year admissions process.

    6.2 Relevant school staff are highly experienced in dealing with children that may present a specific need, whether that be medical, physical, educational, emotional and, or behavioural. The majority of primary in-year applications are processed quickly and children are placed in a school within 5 school days, including those with a specific need. Referrals for a Fair Access Placement will only apply to applicants that are considered to have a high level of need.

    6.3 The following statutory requirements, that apply to all schools, must be considered before a decision is made to consider a Fair Access referral and placement:

    • The admission authority for the school must set out in their arrangements the criteria against which places will be allocated at the school when there are more applications than places and the order in which the criteria will be applied. All children whose Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan names the school must be admitted. If the school is not oversubscribed, all applicants must be offered a place (Code para 1.6).
    • Looked after children, previously looked after children, and those allocated a place at the school in accordance with a Fair Access Protocol, must take precedence over those on a waiting list (Code para 2.14).
    • The operation of Fair Access Protocols is outside the arrangements of co-ordination and is triggered when a parent of an eligible child has not secured a school place under in-year admission procedures (Code para 3.10).
    • Admission authorities must not refuse to admit a child thought to be potentially disruptive, or likely to exhibit challenging behaviour, on the grounds that the child is first to be assessed for special educational needs (Code para 3.31).
       

    7. Mechanisms for referrals

    7.1 The majority of primary in-year application are processed quickly and are placed in a school within 5 school days. The number of cases presented that may need to be considered for a fair access placement will be low and would not be expected to be more than ten in any one year.

    7.2 The Admissions team is the first point of contact for in-year applications. A high majority of in-year admissions are new arrivals to the area and many from abroad and will not be knowledgeable of the schools or the system for applying. Parents will be advised on schools to apply for with vacancies in order to secure a place quickly. This information will be provided with or without the knowledge of any needs the child may present.

    7.3 Each in-year application is processed in the normal way and the applicant’s details will be sent to the schools applied for with any additional information provided. Information provided by the parent or carer on the form will in most cases highlight the need to seek further details. It may also be the case that no information is provided by the parent and it only becomes apparent that there is a high level of need when the school offered meet with the parent and child.

    7.4 The Admissions Team (senior managers) will determine the cases to be considered for a Fair Access placement. Depending on the circumstances of the case, decisions will be made in liaison with senior managers in the SEND team, using mechanisms already in place. Where appropriate, advice will be sought from social workers, Family Support managers and other professionals that may be involved in the case.

    7.5 If a Governing Body does not wish to admit a child with challenging behaviour, even though places are available, it must refer the case to the Admission Team for consideration for a Fair Access placement. This will normally only be appropriate where a school has a particularly high proportion of children with challenging behaviour or previously excluded children in the requested year group. This provision will not apply to a looked after child, a previously looked after child or a child with an Education, Health and Care Plan naming the school in question, as these children must be admitted.

    8. Coordinated virtual placement process

    Once it is agreed that a child’s placement must be decided in accordance with the Fair Access Protocol, the following process will apply:

    Step 1 – Notifying the parent or carers
    The parent or carer will be informed that that their case meets the criteria for a Fair Access Placement and they will be asked to name three primary schools (if they have not done so already). If the parent has not indicated faith schools or has only indicated faith schools, they will be contacted to determine any strong reasons for their preferences.

    Step 2 – Identifying schools
    The admissions team will also identify the three closest primary schools, which may or may not be the same as the parents preferred schools. If the child is of Reception, Year 1 or 2 age, only schools with vacancies will be named. Faith schools will be included, depending on the outcome of Step 1. Any school previously attended will not be named if there are legitimate reasons why it would not be appropriate to do so. 

    Step 3 – Notifying schools
    The three named closest schools, and any additional schools named by the parent that are not included, will be contacted by email as a formal Fair Access Placement request. The email will be for the Head teacher’s attention with all schools included in the request. The email will be password protected as it will contain all the known information that has been provided. Each school will be expected to respond to all recipients with a decision on the placement within 3 school days and to be returned by the headteacher or on the Head teacher’s behalf. All schools (including Academies) should work together collaboratively, taking into account the needs of the child as well as those of the school.

    Step 4 - Returning a decision
    On receipt of all responses, if more than one school agrees to a placement, the highest priority will be given to the school that is indicated as a parental preference. If not a school of parental preference, the school closest to the home address will be offered. If a decision is returned not to agree the placement, reasons must be provided with all recipients included in the email. This approach will provide transparency for all schools that have received the request. Note: For placements required for Year 3, 4, 5 or 6 age groups, the school being full will not be valid reason for refusal. If there are no agreements for the placement, a decision will be made by Admissions (senior managers) for a placement based on the information returned by each school and fair access placements that have been made previously for each school. Advice will be sought from the appropriate professionals in reaching a decision.

    Step 5 - Notifying the decision
    The final placement decision will be circulated by email to all recipients. The school is to respond to confirm the placement. The parent/carer will be informed by the admissions team of the school to be allocated. The expectation is the school will contact the parent or carer to arrange for the child to be on roll within 5 school days. If the parent of the child refuses/declines to send their child to the allocated school the parent will be considered to be failing in their duty to ensure that their child is receiving a full-time education and the case will be referred to the ACE Team. Note: The parent retains the right to appeal against the decision not to offer any of the preferred schools.

    9. Resolving differences of opinion

    9.1 The purpose of this protocol is to ensure that children who are vulnerable are placed in provision as quickly as possible and that there is a fair and transparent decision-making process led by schools, recognising their collective responsibility to children resident in the borough. Where a school refuses to admit a child, the evidence will be reviewed by the Primary Heads Partnership which will be attended/coordinated by either the Head of Admissions and /or Head of SEN. Where the decision involves a school that is represented on the Primary Heads Partnership, the Head must not be party to the review or the final decision.

    9.2 Following their review and confirmation of the allocated school, if a school still refuses to take a child then the Assistant Director of Education will review the case with a representative of the Primary Heads Executive and the school, prior to consideration of a direction. However, in the case of a community school it cannot refuse to admit a pupil if requested by its own admissions authority.

    9.3 The LA may direct the admission authority for any maintained school in its area for which the local authority is not the admissions authority to admit a child even when the school is full, if a child has been refused entry to or has been permanently excluded from every suitable school in a reasonable distance. If the LA is minded to direct, then before doing so it will consult the relevant parties, and then notify the Governing Body and headteacher of any decision to direct. The direction may only be issued after 15 days have passed from service of its notice and the case has not been referred by the Governing Body to the Schools Adjudicator. The Governing Body of a maintained school may appeal a local authority’s decision to direct the admission of a child in accordance with a locally agreed protocol by referring to the Schools Adjudicator within the 15-day period and informing the LA. The Adjudicator then determines which school is to be required to admit the child and the decision is binding.

    9.4 Should an Academy refuse to admit a child in accordance with the protocol, the local authority may refer the matter to the Secretary of State for consideration who may subsequently make a direction.

    10. Support for children with SEN

    10.1 When a child or young person is placed through the Fair Access Process, £1000 of Contingency Funding can be made available to facilitate transition into mainstream education. Please send applications to SEND@lbhf.gov.uk.

    11. Children that may not be ready for mainstream schooling

    11.1 Where a school, parent or LA considers an unplaced child for whom an application for a place at a school has been made, may not be ready for mainstream school the case will be dealt with by the Admissions Team, in liaison with the appropriate professionals.

    11.2 A child or young person considered ‘not ready for mainstream school’ include any who:

    • a. have a high level of need that has been assessed as requiring a placement in specialist provision.
    • b. have had four or more fixed-term exclusions within the last two academic years 
    • c. are placed in alternative provision where staff consider the child person is not ready for re-integration into mainstream schooling
    • d. are unable to attend school for medical reasons and has a letter from a consultant confirming the reasons s/he is unable to attend school
    • e. have a behaviour record which indicates that s/he currently poses a serious risk to the health, safety or welfare of staff and students in any mainstream school.

    12. How the implementation of the protocol will be monitored

    A report detailing children placed as a result of the protocol will be submitted to the Primary Heads Consultative Forum meeting by the Principal School Admissions Officer. The protocol will be reviewed regularly.

    Definitions

    1 The term “Academies” in this document refers to all types of Academy schools, that is, including Academy converters, sponsored Academies, and all types of Free Schools, including University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools, with the exception of Special Schools and alternative providers

    2 The word 'must' represents mandatory requirements of the Admissions Code.

    3 Does not apply to infant year groups where classes would exceed 30.

  • Fair Access Protocol secondary provision

    1. Background

    1.1 The School Admissions Code requires local authorities to have a Fair Access Protocol in place which ensures that access to education is secured quickly for children who have no school place and that all schools in an area admit their fair share of the most vulnerable children, including those whose behaviour has been challenging. All schools and academies must1 agree and participate in the Fair Access Protocol and will be expected to admit children above their published admissions number if the school is already full. 

    1.2 The Admissions Team would normally be the first point of contact for parents/carers resident in Hammersmith & Fulham seeking a school place for their child. In the majority of cases, children will be allocated a school place in accordance with normal in-year admission procedures either in a Hammersmith & Fulham school, or due to geography a neighbouring borough school.

    1.3 In accordance with 3.23(b) of the Code, local authorities must produce an annual report on admissions to the Adjudicator which must include an assessment of the effectiveness of Fair Access Protocols and co-ordination in their area, including how many children were admitted to each school under them.

    1.4 Hammersmith & Fulham Council have established a Fair Access Panel in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for resident children that are considered Hard to Place and/or vulnerable.

    2. Scope of the Fair Access Protocol

    2.1 The protocol will apply to all children normally resident, or who will be normally resident, in Hammersmith & Fulham. It is, in effect, a safety net or a last resort process for the minority of children where normal procedures for in-year admissions have failed and the child is considered to be ‘hard to place’

    2.2 The aims of the Fair Access Protocol are to:

    • be fair and transparent and have the confidence of schools;
    • ensure that out of school children identified for a FAP placement are offered education provision appropriate to the child and their needs as quickly as possible;
    • ensure excluded children return to mainstream school as quickly as possible where it has been assessed as appropriate;
    • ensure that all schools in the area, including those that may have places available admit their fair share of children who have had behavioural difficulties.
    • ensure that children who are more vulnerable to missing education, which may in turn impact in their welfare, health and safety, happiness and educational opportunity are placed in a school as quickly as possible.
       

    2.3 It is recognised that while some children may be vulnerable, it is not always the case that they will be ‘hard to place’ in a school and will in most cases be offered a school place in accordance with normal in-year admissions arrangements.

    2.4 Taking account of the local context summarised in the next section, Hammersmith & Fulham’s Fair Access Protocol covers two broad categories.

    • Children of statutory secondary school age whose parents have moved to Hammersmith & Fulham have been unable to secure a school place.
    • Children or young people attending Tri-borough Alternative Provision (TBAP) following exclusion or with a history of serious attendance problems who need to be reintegrated into mainstream education.
       

    2.5 Fair Access referrals cannot be made to, or considered by the panel, for pupils on roll at any other mainstream school. Consideration for a managed move will apply in cases where it may be necessary for a fresh start in another school.

    2.6 Fair Access referrals cannot be made to or considered by the panel for children that are no longer resident in the area, or that have left the country, even for a short period.

    3. The local context

    3.1 Hammersmith and Fulham has 11 secondary schools and a studio school with an additional free school due to open in September 2014. The borough has a wide variety of high performing schools including a community school a free school and a range of religious and nondenominational schools catering for boys and girls including Catholic and Church of England schools and a number of mixed schools.

    3.2 The Authority traditionally had a high percentage of children being educated outside the borough but the opening of Hammersmith Academy and the West London Free School in recent years has increased the proportion of children accommodated in local schools.

    4. How the categories will be managed

    4.1 Children arriving in the borough and unable to secure a school place

    4.2 There are usually enough vacancies in Years 7-11 to accommodate in-year admissions in Hammersmith & Fulham schools or schools located in neighbouring LAs. Because of the nature of local geography, these may be as near or as accessible to parents as schools within Hammersmith & Fulham. Parents looking for a school place will be informed of the possible vacancies available. If the parent experiences difficulties obtaining a place in or out of the borough, the Admissions Team will intervene to secure a place as quickly as possible, and unless there are exceptional circumstances preventing a straight-forward admission, within 20 school days. This process will be in accordance with the normal in-year admissions arrangements.

    4.8 Difficulties are most often encountered in finding places for pupils in Years 10 and 11. Schools may have vacancies in these year groups but can be reluctant to admit Key Stage 4 children who have embarked on a different course of GCSE studies. Where such children also have emotional, behavioural or other difficulties, it may need to be considered appropriate for a dual roll arrangement with the Tri-Borough Alternative Provision (TBAP). Decisions on this matter will be made in the light of the child’s individual needs. The school may also prioritise the child for consultation with the Educational Psychology Service.

    4.9 The statutory duty on the home LA is to ensure suitable education is provided to its resident children. A child will not be considered for a Fair Access placement if a school has been identified through the normal in-year procedures. Securing a school place at any time other than the normal phase of entry to school (reception and Year 7) will mean that the majority of schools will be full. It will often be the case that the identified school will not be the preferred schools but will be the nearest school with a vacancy. The child must have been refused all schools within a reasonable distance from home to school for the threshold for fair access to be met.

    4.10 It is the legal responsibility of the parent/carer to ensure the child in their care receives suitable education provision. If a school place has been identified but refused by the parent/carer, every effort will be made to identify an alternative school if possible, in accordance with normal inyear admissions arrangements. It must be made clear that there will be little or no element of choice when seeking an in-year admission as most schools will be full. A persistent refusal by the parent/carer of a school place will be referred to the ACE Team.

    4.11 Depending on the individual circumstances, it may not always possible to place a Year 11 pupil in a school. If this is the case, they will be referred by the Admissions section to TBAP who will consider, in consultation with parents/carers and professionals, the arrangement of appropriate alternative provision. TBAP will not accept direct approaches from schools in such circumstances.

    5. Mechanism for placement of hard to place secondary age children

    5.1 Where it has not been possible to identify a school for a child in accordance with the standard in-year admission arrangements after one school term of initial registration, the child will be considered as ‘hard to place’ and will be allocated a school place in accordance with the Fair Access Protocol. Extensive negotiation is not part of the Protocol. The choices offered will be limited and because of the limited places available there may indeed be no choice at all. As far as is reasonably practical, the following will be taken into account when identifying the appropriate school in which to allocate a place to the child: 

    • Parental preference including religious or cultural affiliations; 
    • The number on roll at the identified school, whether the school has exceeded its Published Admissions Number, by how many and reasons why.
    • How many children have been placed at local schools under the Fair Access Protocol?
    • Whether the school has a clear and identifiable reason why it cannot meet the child’s needs.
    • The opinion of professionals who may be involved.
       

    6. Procedures for Hammersmith & Fulham schools  

    6.1 Fair Access placements are considered outside of an individual school’s admission criteria and must take priority above applicants on a waiting list (if there is one in operation and irrespective of number on roll.

    6.2 Whilst each LA’s Fair Access Protocol covers only the schools in its local authority area, due to the local context set out in Para 3.2, it will sometimes be necessary to approach neighbouring authorities to request consideration under its Fair Access Protocol if all options within the borough have been exhausted.

    6.3 Children who have been assessed as ‘hard to place must receive priority for admission over others on waiting lists or awaiting an appeal.

    6.4 Where a Hammersmith & Fulham school has been identified as an appropriate placement for the child, the school will be expected to admit the child without unnecessary delay. All schools, including Academies, are expected to arrange a ‘placement meeting’ with the family within 5 school days of notification of the agreed placement. Exceptionally, in the intervening period a child may require assessment by the school and the LA to determine need for additional support which cannot be put in place by the given date. In this instance, the school must notify the Admissions Team to inform the parent of the reason for delay and give a new start date. The expectation is for the child to be on roll at the agreed school within 10 school days of the notification unless the latter applies.

    6.5 In the event of a school refusing to accept the admission Hammersmith & Fulham will direct or instruct the school to admit. The governing bodies of schools which are their own admissions authority may refer a direction to the Schools Adjudicator who will determine which school is to admit the child. For Academies, the LA will apply for a direction to the EFA.

    6.6 Where a parent expresses a preference for a particular school and a place cannot be offered, the parent must be informed of the right of appeal. The child’s name will also be added to the waiting list for the school in accordance with the admissions criteria for that school.

    6.7 If the parent/carer rejects the school or alternative provision offered to the child, they will still have the right to appeal for a place at the preferred school. The appeal panel will be informed that places have been allocated according to the criteria of the Fair Access Protocol which must be taken into account.

    7. Refugee and Asylum seekers

    7.1 Although refugees and asylum seekers often arrive in Hammersmith & Fulham, they rarely form a large group in search of school places. In practice, therefore, those pupils merge with the overall group of casual arrivals whose parents have moved to the area and who are seeking a school place. Such children normally secure a school place in accordance with normal in-year admission procedures.

    8. Children with a statement of special educational needs and Looked After children

    8.1 The provision of the Fair Access will not apply to a looked after child, previously looked after child or a child with a statement of special educational needs naming the school in question. The placement of children is managed through a separate process. 

    9. Excluded children or children at serious risk of exclusion

    9.1 Managed moves can be an effective mechanism for avoiding permanent exclusions or providing a fresh start where it has been concluded this is in the best interest of the child. Managed moves are agreed outside of Fair Access arrangements but will be monitored in order to retain an overview of the movement of Hard to Place/vulnerable children.

    9.2 TBAP, through their SLA with schools, provides managed interventions to support pupils in danger of exclusion. The Childerley Centre offers ‘day 6’ provision and managed interventions for secondary aged pupils. Many pupils also benefit from a Pastoral Support Programme (PSP) which clearly sets out the needs of the pupil, corresponding details of support to be provided by the school, family and LA and offers a mechanism to monitor improvements.

    10. Funding

    10.1 Where schools are asked to accept children above their admission number these will be funded according to Hammersmith & Fulham’s pupil-based formula. When a child is excluded from one of Hammersmith & Fulham’s schools, the remaining portion of that child’s AWPU (age-weighted pupil unit) will be recovered from the school and used for Hammersmith & Fulham’s Pupil Referral Unit or TBAP to help fund alternative provision. Where the child is not a resident of the borough, it will be paid to the home LA. When a school admits a child who was previously permanently excluded, the admitting school will receive the remaining AWPU for the child. These arrangements apply to children up to and including year 11.

    10.2 The effective operation of the Fair Access Protocol will be for the benefit of Hammersmith & Fulham’s children and will require the full cooperation of all schools in Hammersmith & Fulham.

    Definitions

    1 The word ‘ must’, represents mandatory requirements of the Admissions Code 

    2 The definition of ‘suitable education’ is efficient full-time education suitable to a child’s age, ability and aptitude.

    3 ‘Reasonable distance’ is considered to be either a 3-miles walking distance or a public transport journey that does not exceed 75 minutes one way.

For further information, please contact School Admissions on 020 8753 1085 or email school.admissions@lbhf.gov.uk

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