Adopted children to be granted priority for school places

Adopted children are to be given priority access to the school of their choice under the government’s revised admissions code.

The move means adopted children and those subject to special guardianship or residence orders will now be afforded the same provisions as children in care – who are already prioritised for school places.

According to the government, anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that some adoptive parents delay applying for an adoption order so they can take advantage of the priority given to looked-after children in the school admissions system.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said up to 5,000 children could benefit from the changes every year.

“Many of these children have had traumatic experiences in their early lives,” he said. “They don’t stop being vulnerable just because they are now in a loving home. This will also speed up some adoptions – we know that some adoption orders are delayed until a child has started school because priority currently ends when that child leaves care.”

As part of wider revisions to the code, primary school admissions are to be bought into line with the system used for secondary schools.

To this end the government will introduce a “national offer day” on 16 April every year. Currently, different admissions authorities release primary school offers on different dates.

Gibb added: “A new national offer day for primary schools – as recommended by the chief schools adjudicator – will introduce clarity and consistency in the system for hundreds of thousands of parents. Receiving offers on different days is confusing and stressful, especially for parents making cross-border applications to schools in neighbouring local authorities.”

The new system will also allow schools to admit twins, multiple-birth children and children of armed forces personnel into infant classes, even if it takes the class over the 30-child legal limit.

Meanwhile, academies and free schools will be permitted to prioritise pupils from the poorest backgrounds and councils will be banned from using area-wide “lotteries” as the principal method of allocating places across a local authority area.

Successful schools will be allowed to expand and increase the number of places they offer to children in their area

The revised codes may still be amended before being approved by parliament on 1 December. Government intends to bring them into force on February 2012.