The school's primary admissions criteria seem to be based on a banding system structured by distance, although the precise nature of the banding test, and what proportions of clever/middling/less clever kids they take, is not very clear. 10% of places are reserved for those with a 'aptitude' for technology, the school's specialism. The admission of kids with Special Education Needs (SEN) is described as 'a concession', even though all schools are legally obliged to take a certain proportion of such children unless they can show good reason otherwise.
"A disabled 11-year-old girl has been rejected by an academy school because she poses a “health and safety risk” to other children.
Idayah Miller, from Norbury, was told she could not go to the elite Harris Academy in Crystal Palace because her wheelchair would restrict the movement of other children in the crowded corridors.
In a letter to her parents, headteacher Steve Kenning also said the little girl would suffer low self-esteem because her “academic ability is quite low” and Harris is “a high pressure, high performing academy” where she would struggle to keep up with her friends"
Plainly, this case would seem to be a decision which offends against the Disability Discrimination Act. But I'm aware of the perils of making legal judgements on specific cases based only on newspaper headlines, so I'll leave that one to the lawyers.
I want to ask a broader question about admissions. 'Banding' is, in certain defined circumstances, especially in big cities, a perfectly reasonable way of allocating school places. It just means you test them and then, assuming equal proportions of kids with different ability levels have applied to different schools, allocate them places which leave each school with a broadly similar entry cohort. It can be a way of attempting to slow down the drift back towards a covert form of the old Grammar/Secondary Modern divide which is so evident in so many inner city areas.
But doesn't this case illustrate that if you let individual schools do the banding that they'll just use it as means of covert selection and rejection of 'low ability' pupils? As someone comments in the local newspaper article - would the school have rejected Stephen Hawking if he was in a wheelchair?
Meet the Academy Sponsor: Cameron's favourite carpet fitter it would appear.
I'd quite like it if one of the more mainstream leftie blogs picked this up, so I'm going to link to Liberal Conspiracy, Hopi (who, like me, doesn't live that far away), TCF and Don Paskini in the hope of attracting more coverage of this case and the general issue.