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Staffordshire Pays Respects To HRH Prince Philip (1921 - 2021)

In year fair access protocol

Why is a fair access protocol (FAP) required?

All admission authorities must have in place a fair access protocol under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 agreed with the majority of schools in its area to ensure that – outside the normal admission round – unplaced children, especially the most vulnerable, are offered a place at a suitable school as quickly as possible. This includes admitting children to schools that are already full. The fair access protocol is triggered when an eligible child has not secured a place under in-year admission procedures. There is no duty for admission authorities to comply with parental preference when allocating places through the fair access protocol. 

Through the in-year fair access protocol the local authority ensures that no school, including those with places available, is asked to take a disproportionate number of children who have been excluded from other schools or who are experiencing difficulties due to challenging behaviour [1].

It is expected that the district inclusion partnerships (DIP) will take overall charge of the placement of children where a school place cannot be found quickly. 

These partnerships deal successfully with a significant number of difficult issues, particularly with regard to excluded children or children who are close to permanent exclusion. 

Along with devolved high needs funding and responsibility for alternative provision, the DIP protocol encourages schools to work together in partnership to improve behaviour, reduce exclusions, tackle persistent absence and to ensure children who are hard to place have appropriate provision. 

The county council has established an “alternative provision panel”, its remit being to ensure the successful placement of permanent exclusions and those requiring a return to mainstream education. This fair access Protocol will be used where schools cannot agree to admit a “hard to place child” through the locally established DIP and will ensure that decisions taken by officers as to the “identified school” are taken swiftly and based on data/information provided by the schools themselves. 

Aims of the fair access protocol 

The fair access protocol is designed to: 

  • Be fair and transparent.
  • Acknowledge the need of young people who are not on the roll of any school to be dealt with quickly and sympathetically.
  • Recognise the success of proactive work already being undertaken cooperatively between schools to prevent exclusion, and to support children, e.g. through managed moves.
  • Reduce the time that these children spend out of school.
  • Ensure that schools admit children with challenging educational needs in a manner which takes account of the proportion of children they have already admitted through the DIP process or through managed moves and exclusion data for primary pupils. 

Who is not covered by the fair access protocol?

Looked after children are not covered by the fair access protocol, and it is required that all schools and settings will act without delay when approached to admit a child who is presently looked after, previously looked after children and children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP). 

The local authority, as a corporate parent, does not tolerate drift and delay where children the authority looks after are without an education placement that is appropriate to their assessed needs. This includes using their powers of direction in a timely way rather than delay issuing a direction as a result of protracted negotiation [2]. Involvement of carers, social workers and the Virtual School team from the authority to whom the child is looked after is imperative in identifying the most appropriate provision and establishing any required support to aid the transition and induction process. Education provision should mean a full time place and should be secured within 20 days of the emergency placement and schools judged by Ofsted as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ should be prioritised [3].

Children with an education, health and care plan are placed in accordance with the SEN code of practice. All applications that fall within this category will be directed to the SEND Assessment and Planning Service. 

Admission authorities must not refuse to admit a child thought to be potentially disruptive, or likely to exhibit challenging behaviour, on the grounds that the child is first to be assessed for special educational needs. 

Who is covered by the fair access protocol?

There is some evidence that at times other children not listed below experience difficulties in attaining a school place, there is already an agreed procedure for dealing with their applications that should be adhered to in all cases including an independent admission appeals system. Guidance in relation to individual school and admitting authorities’ responsibilities in relation to the in-year application for school process is available on the learning net from the School Admissions Service. 

The children covered by the protocol will be the ones who are vulnerable and for whom it is even more important that they be admitted to a school quickly but must, as a minimum, include the following children of compulsory school age who have difficulty securing a school place: 

a) Children who have been permanently excluded from their previous school, have a history of poor attendance or fixed term exclusions;

b) Children from the criminal justice system or Pupil Referral Units who need to be reintegrated into mainstream education;

c) Children who have been out of education for two months or more;

d) Children of gypsies, roma, travellers, refugees and asylum seekers;

e) Children who are homeless;

f) Children with unsupportive family backgrounds for whom a place has not been sought;

g) Children who are carers; and

h) Children with special educational needs, disabilities or medical conditions (but without an EHCP).

i) Children whose parents have been unable to find them a place after moving to the area because of a shortage of school places. 

Main principles of the fair access protocol 

  • All schools agree to use the fair access protocol.
  • There is a general expectation that if a child moves into an area (including year 10 and 11), he/she is entered on the local catchment area school roll unless there are very exceptional reasons as to why this should not be the case.
  • Schools cannot cite oversubscription as a reason for not accepting pupils on to their roll under the protocol. The only exception to this will be is where infant class size regulations apply. Children considered under this protocol have priority for admission over others on a waiting list or awaiting an admission appeal.
  • Schools cannot refuse to admit a child who has been denied a place at that school at appeal, if the protocol identifies that school as the one to admit the child.

It is essential that all children are found places quickly. All parts of the local authority and those of its partners should be prepared to act with urgency where a child is known to be without appropriate education provision. 

How will the fair access protocol operate? 

The majority of pupils are already admitted through routine admission procedures. If parents approach the local authority for a school place and there appear to be reasons that could make the school reluctant to admit, then the procedure is set out in the action table included within this document. 

Each case will be considered on an individual basis and where appropriate may be referred to the DIP, which will make a recommendation. In exceptional circumstances, DIP’s may consider that particular pupils would be better placed in an alternative to a school placement, such as a short-stay school (PRU), a local FE college, or a place provided by a voluntary organisation. However, these pupils are required to be admitted to the mainstream school roll in order to access the alternative provision as agreed through the DIP[4].

Where partnership’s work well, shared ownership at local level means all services share information and take joint responsibility for placing children in the district. The DIPs operating across the county function is the prevention of permanent exclusions, managed moves and other strategies to support fair access for young people. These partnerships also play a strategic role in developing and supporting ways of working in each district regarding Inclusion. It is not necessary for all the areas to have identical practice however, there does need to be common outcomes for the children involved. It is expected that schools will organise a meeting with relevant support staff from SCC or partners to discuss the arrangements for the child’s admission if necessary. 

Monitoring and review of the protocol 

The alternative provision panel will monitor the number of children referred to the local authority under this protocol and provide statistics/reports to schools and other.

Fair access protocol - a guide for parents

Fair access protocol table of actions

Rules governing directions


[1] 'Culturally abnormal behaviour(s) of such an intensity, frequency or duration that the physicalsafety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit use of, or result in the person being denied access to, ordinary community facilities.' (Emerson, 1995)

The Royal College of Psychiatrists' 2007 report challenging behaviour: a unified approach defined 'challenging behaviour' very similarly as:

Behaviour of such an intensity, frequency or duration as to threaten the quality of life and/or thephysical safety of the individual or others and is likely to lead to responses that are restrictive, aversive or result in exclusion

[2] DfE Publication, Promoting the education of Looked after Children July 2014

[3] See 2

[4] As a Local Authority we consider that we do not have the capacity in order to appropriately guarantee the appropriateness of alternative provision in relation to individual children, for example ensuring that provision is appropriately quality assured whereas schools through their experience in commissioning AP do have the appropriate skills set and are therefore best placed to carry out this function. Furthermore, the Local Authority does not have the ability to access Element 1 (AWPU) funding for a pupil unless they are placed on a school roll and placing a pupil on a PRU roll would put additional pressure on the high needs block which is there to support the most vulnerable pupils in the county

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