Admission conditions of “unfair” schools for pupils in rented accommodation

Several high schools have been criticized for admission rules that reduced the chances of entry for students living in rented accommodation.

Six schools in the Watford area have violated the school admissions code following an investigation by the Office for the Schools Adjudicator.

The investigation was launched after a complaint on April 14 suggesting it was “unreasonable” for some students to be excluded from schools because of the need to provide evidence of where they lived.

The schools involved – which are all academies – are Watford Grammar (Boys & Girls), Parmiter’s in Garston, Queens’ in Bushey, Rickmansworth School and St Clement Danes in Chorleywood.

They are all members of the South West Herts Schools Consortium and are described as “partially selective,” meaning they can choose a portion of their intake based on their ability.

Arbitrator Tom Brooke said it was “unfair” for schools to have an “absolute requirement” that students live in a house with a lease of more than six months because some families, including those with low income, would be excluded.

He found that short-term rentals are generally the most common among private renters and, according to the Homeless Charity Shelter website, most last six months before continuing on monthly.

Mr Brooke acknowledged that schools may have introduced the obligation to prevent families from obtaining an “unfair advantage” by entering into short-term rentals near a school to secure a place.

The investigation found that the two schools at Watford Grammar, Queens and Rickmansworth have absolute requirements of a 12 month minimum rental, while St Clement Danes was for two years.

Parmiter’s has a “proof of additional residence” rule which means that elementary school addresses can be taken as home addresses if the school cannot “satisfactorily establish” a permanent home address. Mr Brooke said it was not “fair”.

Mr Brooke concluded that the schools’ admission arrangements did not comply with the school admissions code, which states that authorities must ensure that the allocation of places is “fair, clear and objective”.

He determined that they therefore had to change their requirements by February 28, 2022, which all six schools agreed to.

A spokesperson for the six schools said: “We are currently putting in place detailed arrangements for establishing a permanent home address to prevent the use of fraudulent contact details and genuine local applicants are denied a place.

“We will ensure that our admission arrangements meet the requirements of the determination and will continue to work closely with Hertfordshire County Council to prevent the use of spoofed addresses in the school admission process , including referral to the shared anti-fraud service if necessary. ”

Complaints about schools’ admission arrangements regarding late registration, the conflict between admission test dates and recruiting areas were not upheld by the arbitrator.

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