Academy school criticised for excluding council estates in admissions policy

An academy school in south London has been criticised by the admissions watchdog for setting its catchment area to exclude children from two council estates with the “risk of skewing its intake against some economically and socially disadvantaged pupils”. The Charter school in Dulwich, a mixed secondary that became an academy in 2010, has excluded a pedestrianised path leading to two areas of social housing from its calculation of the shortest safe walking distance, the watchdog said in a judgment.

The Charter school was set up in 2000 as a foundation school – a type of school that is responsible for its own admissions. It beca,e an academy and, like all academies and free schools, it acts as its own admissions authority. The adjudicator’s judgment says: “The practical effect of excluding the Wanley Road path from the measured walking routes has an impact on those who approach the school from a northerly direction – decreasing their nominal proximity as compared with those travelling from other directions.

It is observable that there are some substantial areas of social housing lying directly to the north of the school, whilst the highly desirable and expensive Dulwich Village area lies nearby to the south.” The judgment accepts there is a mix of residential accommodation near the school, including other social housing that is not affected by the exclusion of the path. Surely this amounts to a form of selection?”

The adjudicator ruled that the school is in breach of the admissions code. While the school’s basic criterion – shortest safe walking distance – is compliant with the code, “the measuring system used by the school to apply this criterion does not actually do what the arrangements say”.

The Charter school said in a statement: “Governors are proud of the inclusive nature of the Charter school. Ofsted reported in 2009: ‘The inclusive culture and ethos of the school extend beyond its gates and result in outstanding promotion of community cohesion.’ “The school’s governing body has accepted the admission’s watchdog’s recommendation, and has taken steps to implement it.”

The statement went on: “However, the school has taken legal advice and is in the process of challenging a number of the assertions in the preliminary report.” A fifth of pupils at the school are on free school meals – the national average is 15.9%. Ofsted has noted that the school has a diverse intake.