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Tom Niblett
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Email: press.office@naht.org.uk 

 

NAHT comments on secondary school admission applications deadline

Sunday (31 October), is the deadline for secondary school admission applications – the last date parents can submit their first choice of secondary school for their child.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents the majority of school leaders in England and Wales, said: “This can be an anxious time for families. Choosing the right school and securing a place there is a huge moment in a child’s life and places a great deal of pressure on their families. And of course, these feelings of anxiety will only be heightened by the confusion and uncertainty caused by Coronavirus. Schools have gone to great lengths to find innovative solutions so that parents can make informed choices, but the reality is that some families could be applying for schools they haven’t been able to visit in person.

“Once again, it is vital that no child going through the admissions process this year should be disadvantaged. Support must be in place for families to navigate what can be a daunting process. For those families not getting their first choice of school, the appeals process will be going ahead, with a welcome confirmation of the DfE’s extension to last year’s flexibilities, including virtual hearings where required. This process must be as robust as ever and be made clear to parents through effective communication and advocacy, where required.

“The problem is that in an increasingly fragmented school system we lack a co-ordinated approach to place planning. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring sufficient school places, but the powers and resources necessary for them to do so have been removed. Instead, planning is haphazard; decisions are being made in isolation and new schools and new school places are not always being commissioned in the areas they are most needed.

“It’s difficult to imagine other public services being provided in this way. New hospitals, roads or rail lines would not be opened just because there’s a willing sponsor and not necessarily a public need. As well as harming choice, this must be a dreadfully inefficient way to go about delivering such an essential public service.

“The government’s own figures show that an extra 418,000 secondary school places will be needed in England by 2027, to meet the 14.7 per cent rise in pupil population. There is a desperate need for long-term planning that spans all sectors.

“Until the government creates a national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England, the annual anxious wait for families will continue.”

First published 29 October 2021