Councils should have powers to compel academies to take in students, LGA urges

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to grant councils powers to direct academy schools to take in ‘hard to place' students, including those excluded from other schools.

Currently, councils only have the authority exhibit this power over their own maintained schools. In the instance that they consider a local academy school as being the most suitable for a particular child, councils have to apply to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) which makes the final decision.

Government statistics have shownthat ninety per cent of hard to place children end up being refused entry to an academy school with only 15 of the 121 students put forward to the EFA being accepted into an academy.

The decision to require a school to take in a particular pupil is made following careful local discussion and is made in the best interests of the child in question. However, according to the LGA, councils are now becoming increasingly worried that their advice to the EFA is being repeatedly ignored.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: "Councils have a statutory duty to ensure that all children have a school place and are receiving a good education.

"By ignoring local council advice the EFA is allowing academies to effectively choose the children they want to admit. There are far stronger safeguards in place to ensure maintained schools do not cherry pick their pupils and the same measures should be in place for all academies.

"Decisions about individual children should be made in the best interest of each child, not to protect favoured schools. These decisions are best made locally by parents and councils who know each child best.

"It is now vital that councils are urgently given the powers to take these decisions locally, based on their local knowledge of the children, families and schools involved."