Online admissions system helps cut uncertainty over school placement

London's shared service matches more children to school places

The number of London children left without a school place for this September has been cut after local authorities set up a shared service that enabled parents to apply to the schools they wanted electronically.

All 33 London borough councils plus six local authorities on the outskirts of the capital introduced online schools admissions systems for the applications process covering the 2007/08 school year.

Use of the systems meant that more children were awarded a definite place than in previous years, when the councils announced the results of the admissions process on 1 March.

When schools started using the system to offer places, some 93% of children were offered a definite place, compared with fewer than 80% in the previous school year.

The improvement in the number of places offered comes from the councils sharing information about the number of places they have available.

Some 77,000 schoolchildren apply for secondary school places in London every year. Before the shared service was introduced, some parents were receiving multiple offers from schools in different boroughs, while others received none.

The 39 local authorities set up the pan-London co-ordinated admissions system with Wandsworth as the lead council on the project and Atkins Management Consultants as the project manager.

An executive board with representatives from all the local authorities was established to oversee the project. Sutton borough's chief education officer was appointed chairman of the board.

Each council implemented one of three local admissions system from software suppliers Arete Software, Capita Education Services or Tribal Technology.

The pan-London project team also commissioned Arete to develop a bespoke application to receive data from each of the local admissions systems.

When parents began the latest admissions round last September, they were asked to submit their six schools in order of preference to their local councils. The councils then fed the data into their local admissions systems.

Every parent's choices were forwarded to the bespoke application, which is called the Pan-London Register. Data was transferred using XML over a secure network connection. The councils encrypted the data using an application called Tectia from software supplier SSH.

Councils only have a statutory responsibility to share information about available school places up until they make the majority of offers on 1 March.

Admission scheme saves cash

LSE admissions report:

Pan-London admissions scheme:


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