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Fair access protocols for primary and secondary schools

The primary and secondary fair access protocols came into effect on 1 April 2023.

The School Admissions Code (2021) highlights that each local authority must have a fair access protocol to ensure that unplaced and vulnerable children, and those who are having difficulty in securing a school place in-year, are allocated a school place as quickly as possible.

The protocol must be consulted upon and developed in partnership with all schools in its area. Once the protocol has been agreed by the majority of schools in its area, all admission authorities must participate in it.

Participation includes making available a representative who is authorised to participate in discussions, make decisions on placing children via the protocol, and admitting pupils when asked to do so in accordance with the protocol, even when the school is full.

Local authorities must provide admission authorities with reasonable notice and information as to how and when discussions around the placement of children via the protocol will take place.

Where it has been agreed that a child will be considered under the fair access protocol, a school place must be allocated for that child within 20 school days. Once they have been allocated a school place via the fair access protocol, arrangements should be made for the child to start at the school as soon as possible.