Schools’ Adjudicator Orders London Council to Review Admissions Policy Over Age and Race Concerns

Posted on: 5 mins read
Daniel Rosenberg Profile Picture
Dan Rosenberg

Partner, Education & Public Law Solicitor

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The government body responsible for overseeing the admissions criteria for schools has ordered a London Council to amend its primary school admissions policies after they were found to indirectly discriminate against families on the grounds of race and age.

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Legal Action, Family Impact, and Discriminatory Policy

This decision follows legal action brought by Simpson Millar’s education team on behalf of a local father whose youngest child was refused a reception place at a Waltham Forest primary school attended by their older sibling.  The family had moved (and split up) as a result of the breakdown of a relationship.

Under Waltham Forest’s admissions policy, children could have to attend a different school from their older siblings if the families had moved more than half a mile away from the school.

The objection to the School’s Adjudicator argued that ‘white British residents in Waltham Forest are disproportionately more likely to be house owners than white, non-British or non-white residents, and less likely to live in private rented accommodation’.   It also argued that white British residents were less likely to be in temporary accommodation on account of being homeless.   It further argued that younger parents were also more likely to be in insecure accommodation.

Following a review of the Council’s policies the Office of the Schools Adjudicator found that the admissions criteria for Community and Voluntary Controlled Primary Schools in Waltham Forest violated the School Admissions Code due to indirect discrimination on the grounds of race and age.

In its published decision, the adjudicator stated that ‘Non-white British/non-white applicants are more likely to be in privately rented accommodation (without security of tenure), temporary housing, or otherwise less secure in their accommodation than white British applicants who are more likely to be owner-occupiers or accommodated in social housing with security of tenure’.


Consequences and Wider Implications

It added that, consequently, ‘that group is more likely to have to change their accommodation and will have less choice as to the accommodation they move to’, and that essentially, ‘it comes down to white British residents tending to be better off financially than white non-British or non-white residents’, and that ‘those who are better off financially will tend to have greater choice in the location of their accommodation’.

The adjudicator further noted the significant logistical problems for parents when younger siblings cannot secure a place at the same school as their older siblings. This situation often results in siblings attending different schools or older siblings being forced to change schools, creating considerable disadvantages for both parents and pupils.

Dan Rosenberg, Education Partner at Simpson Millar, who represented the family during the legal challenge said the adjudicators findings could have wider implications for other authorities that create barriers to sibling admissions for primary schools.

He said: “It is deeply concerning that a local authority has been found to be operating admissions criteria for its primary schools that indirectly discriminates against younger parents and children whose parents are not white British.

“It would appear that the Council has given no thought to the discriminatory effects of its policies.

“Life is hard enough for families privately renting in London, or homeless families in temporary accommodation. Parents can’t be in two places at once at school drop-off time. Many families are forced to move through no fault of their own, and they should not be penalised in this way, with all of the adverse consequences for their children and their stability.”

The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons said: “Having a four year old and a six year old in different schools was a nightmare, and very difficult to contend with on top of the breakdown in my relationship with the children’s mother.   The children were always late for school, or the last one in the playground at pick up time.  It made a hard situation unnecessarily harder."


Future Steps and Recommendations

“I hope that Waltham Forest learns from this decision, and when it amends this policy ensures that it does not happen again.  Its common sense that one can’t get infant school aged children to two different places at the same time.  Once the first child has a school place, parents assume that younger siblings will follow them.  What happened to us was a very unwelcome shock. “The ruling mandates that Waltham Forest review and amend its admissions policy within the next two months to ensure compliance with the School Admissions Code and to prevent further discrimination.

Dan Rosenberg from Simpson Millar added: “The families that are affected by this are by definition more deprived, and those least likely to be able to navigate bureaucracy, and least likely to read detailed admissions criteria or realise they have a problem until it is too late – when they are faced with a refusal of a place at the school the older sibling attends, whatever detailed policies or mitigation measures may be written on paper.

“We would urge Waltham Forest to consider the matter conscientiously in light of the equality implications of not allowing automatic sibling priority in an urban area with significant deprivation and ensure that siblings get automatic priority for primary school entry. Those who are privately renting or in temporary accommodation in London should not have another hurdle to overcome.”

Ben Twomey, Chief Executive of Generation Rent, said: “School admissions are yet another way that the system treats private renters as second-class citizens. Not only do we face the stress and hardship of unwanted moves, they can cause further damage by disrupting our children’s education. Minority ethnic and younger households are more likely to be private renters so are made most vulnerable to evictions and the school disruptions that come with them, embedding discrimination.

“Reforms to protect renters from unfair evictions, and measures to build affordable homes where people want to live would reduce the number of families forced to undertake these painful moves, but councils still need to make sure school policies don’t discriminate and disadvantage families further.”

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Daniel Rosenberg Profile Picture

Dan Rosenberg

Partner, Education & Public Law Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Dan has been with Simpson Millar since 2010, and became a Partner in 2014. 

As a leading member of our Public Law department, he works across a wide range of areas in Education Law and Community Care, with a particular interest in work for children and young people.

References (n.d.). Dan Rosenberg | Public Law Solicitor | Simpson Millar Solicitors. [online] Available at:

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