Fair access protocol

Fair access protocols exist to ensure that unplaced children outside the normal admissions round, especially the most vulnerable, are offered a suitable school as quickly as possible and to ensure that all schools in the area admit their fair share of children with challenging behaviour.

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Which schools are included in the protocol?

The protocol applies to all local authority maintained schools, community, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and academies. It does not apply to maintained or private nurseries, independent schools, sixth form schools or colleges.

When will the fair access protocol be applied?

The operation of the fair access protocol is outside the arrangements of co-ordination and is triggered when a parent of an eligible child has not secured a school place under the in-year admission arrangements.

Who does the fair access protocol apply to?

  • Children subject to a Child in Need Plan or a Child Protection plan, or having had a Child in Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan  within 12 months at the point of being referred to the protocol
  • Children living in a refuge or in any other relevant accommodation at the point of being referred to the protocol
  • Children returning from the criminal justice system
  • Children in alternative provision who need to be reintegrated into mainstream education or who have been permanently excluded but are deemed suitable for mainstream education
  • Children with special educational needs, disabilities or medical conditions (without a statement/education, health and care plan)
  • Children who are carers
  • Children who are homeless
  • Children in formal kinship care arrangements
  • Children of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers
  • Children who have been out of education for two months or more
  • Children who have been refused a school place on the grounds of challenging behaviour and referred to the protocol in accordance with paragraph 3.10 of the School Admissions Code (2021)
  • Children for whom a place has not been sought due to exceptional circumstances
  • Children who have been out of education for four or more weeks where it can be demonstrated that there are no places available at any school within a reasonable distance of their home. This does not include circumstances where a suitable place has been offered to a child and this has not been accepted.

How does the fair access protocol operate?

If a child who falls under one of the fair access categories is unable to find a school place, the local authority will initiate the protocol. These pupils will be given priority over any other applicants other than children in local authority care and those with special educational needs.

Parental preference will be taken into consideration. However, under the protocol, parental preference no longer applies, and the local authority can approach any suitable school and ask them to admit the child.

The school is asked to respond to the request for admission within five school days.

Where the school agrees to admit, admission will be arranged for within ten school days.

If a school does not want to admit the child, they can refer the case to the in year fair access panel for consideration.

The panel will consider the circumstances of the case, taking account of both the needs of the child and the school. The decision of the panel and the name of the school the child is to attend will be communicated to the parent in writing within 20 school days of the case being referred to in-year fair access. Admission to the school should then be arranged within ten school days.

If I am refused a place for my child at my preferred school, do I still have the right of appeal?

Yes. The right of appeal still stands even after consideration of the case by the fair access panel. If your child is refused a place at your preferred school you have the right of appeal.

Where practical, your child should continue attending their current school whilst an appeal is being processed.

Does the protocol apply to looked after children or children with an education, health and care plan?

The protocol does not apply to looked after children, previously looked after children or to children with an education, health and care plan. These children must be admitted to a school as a priority.

This page was last updated on 1 September 2021

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