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Guidance for admission authorities when processing applications made from another country in preparation for Brexit transition.

First published:
21 December 2020
Last updated:

Guidance

How admission authorities and local authorities should process applications made from another country for a maintained school in Wales.

Parents and carers should contact the local authority for guidance on applying for a school place.

In most cases, children arriving from overseas have the right to attend schools in Wales. School admission authorities must not refuse to admit a child on the basis of their nationality or immigration status nor remove them from roll on this basis. It is the responsibility of parents and carers to check that their children have a right, under their visa entry conditions, to study at a school.

To help parents and carers, we recommend that local authorities advise overseas nationals entering the UK, who wish to apply for a place at a maintained school, to check that they have a right of abode or that the conditions of their immigration status otherwise permit them to access a maintained school. Local authorities can do this by adding a reminder to their admissions webpage and within their composite admissions prospectus.

Until 31 December 2020, all European Economic Area (‘EEA’), and Swiss national children, will continue to have the right, under UK immigration law, to enter the country to access a school. Any EEA or Swiss national arriving in the UK by 31 December 2020 is eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, and continue to be able to study in schools in Wales as they do now if their application is successful. Children aged under 18 are classed as dependent children if they are the children of foreign nationals who have settled status in the UK, or who are entering the UK on a work visa or Student visa, or who are part of a family entering or residing in the UK under the immigration route for British National (Overseas) citizens and their dependants. These children are entitled to enter the country with their family, or to join their family and study at a maintained or independent school once in the UK.

Unaccompanied children may also enter the UK to access a school. To comply with their visa terms, unaccompanied foreign national children, and young people (including such EEA nationals entering the UK after 31 December 2020) who are entering on a Child Student visa or Student visa must, when accessing education in Wales, study at the independent school, sixth form college or further education college which is sponsoring them.

Foreign nationals cannot use the six month Standard Visitor visa, or an 11 month Short-term Study (English language) visa, to enter the UK to enrol as a learner at a school. Find out what these visas can be used for on the Standard Visitor visa page.

Find out more about visas and immigration and the EU Settlement Scheme for EEA and Swiss citizens.

Irish citizens’ rights to live in the UK will not change. They do not need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, but their family members, who are not Irish or UK citizens, will need to apply.

If a school is concerned that a child may not have a right to enter the country to access a maintained school, it must not deny them a place or remove them from the school roll. Schools should advise parents and carers to check their rights or email the Home Office’s school referrals team so they can investigate further.

Home Office referrals

If a school or local authority has concerns about a particular child’s immigration status, contact the Home Office via: schoolreferrals@homeoffice.gov.uk

The local authority, or school admission authority, does not have to inform the child’s parents or carers that it has contacted the Home Office, however it is good practice for it to do so. The Home Office will aim to respond to the school within 48 hours.

If the Home Office finds that the child’s visa does not entitle him or her to enter the country to attend a maintained school, it will be up to the Home Office to take any further action it considers appropriate. A local authority, admission authority or school must not deny a child a place, or remove him or her from the school roll, on the basis of the Home Office’s findings.

Processing applications from parents and carers moving to Wales

This advice sets out how school admission authorities and local authorities should process applications for places for children who are living in another country at the point the application is made.

A school admission authority cannot refuse to admit a child until the school to which the parents and carers have applied is full, for example, it has reached its published admission number. Parents and carers who are moving/returning to Wales/the UK and who apply for a place in Wales must therefore have their applications for maintained schools considered. Where a place is refused, admission authorities must offer an appeal to an independent appeals panel.

As is the case with admission authorities more generally, nothing in legislation prevents a local authority from accepting an application from a family living in another country or posted overseas who will be moving/returning to Wales/the UK and that the child will be living in the area when they start school.

If a local authority refuses to accept an application for a school place from parents and carers currently living in another country but moving/returning to Wales, an admission authority for the school would have significant difficulty in being able to lawfully apply its admission arrangements.

We recommend that admission authorities and local authorities, including those with determined coordinated schemes follow the process set out in this advice. It is also recommended that admission arrangements and composite admissions prospectuses include details of the type of evidence parents and carers will need to provide to establish that they either already live in the area or intend to return to it in time to take up a school place.

Applications in the normal admissions round and late applications

If an application is made from another country, admission authorities or local authorities should consider the application as adequate proof of an intention to move/return to the area and include it within their admissions process or local authority coordinated process.

An admission authority or local authority should not refuse an application made from overseas (or from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands), on the grounds that the applicant does not currently live in its area. An admission authority or local authority can reasonably request the evidence set out below, so they hold sufficient information to determine the application.

In-year applications

Where a local authority coordinates in-year applications on behalf of a school, it should not require applicants to currently live in the area (or the country) before passing the application on to the admission authority for it to consider.

Where a local authority does not coordinate in-year applications, and applications are made directly to the admission authorities for schools, those schools can only refuse the application based on ‘prejudice’ as defined in legislation (for example, the school is full). The relevant admission authority must not require applicants to currently live in the area before considering their applications.

Establishing ‘home’ address

It is common for admission arrangements to give some degree of priority based on where an applicant lives. In these cases, admission authorities will need an address in order to apply their admission arrangements and rank applicants for their oversubscription criteria.

Admission authorities could ask prospective movers/returners where they will be living. This might include whether parents and carers:

  • own or rent a property in the area to which they intend to return
  • are UK crown servants or are in the UK military and are returning to the area
  • have provided other compelling evidence that they are returning to the area.

School admission authorities and local authorities can decide what evidence they require from parents and carers to show that they intend returning to the area, but this might include:

  • a mortgage or rental agreement for a property in the area
  • deeds for a property in the area
  • a letter from an employer showing a transfer date to the area
  • registration with a local GP.

Admission authorities must consider all in-year applications and should not refuse an application simply because a parent/carer or child currently lives in another country.

If a parent or carer is unable to provide evidence of a return to the area (before the new school year for applications in the normal admissions round or by the start of the next term for in-year applications), admission authorities could apply a catchment area policy or distance tie-break using the parents’ and carers’ place of residence at the point the application is made. If this is in another country, it would give the child a lower priority for admission to most schools.

Applications from UK crown servants or military families

As set out in paragraphs 3.65 to 3.67 of the School Admissions Code, admission authorities must process applications from UK crown servants or UK military families with evidence from their employers or commanding officers that they are returning to the area ahead of any move. They must accept any posting or quartering address as a ‘home’ address in the absence of any actual home address.

Withdrawing offers of places

When an application is made from an address in another country, the local authority and/or school may ask for evidence before the school year or term begins to confirm that the child now lives in the area. If the child does not attend school on the first day of term, the admission authority could remove the offer and allocate the place to a child on the waiting list.

Before taking this action, the local authority and admission authority should contact the parent(s) or carer(s) to give them an opportunity to explain why there has been a delay in taking up the place and find out when the child might begin attending.

Paragraph 3.40 of the School Admissions Code states that: ‘Once an admission authority has made an offer of a school place, it may only lawfully withdraw that offer in very limited circumstances. These may include when the admission authority offered the place on the basis of a fraudulent or intentionally misleading application from a parent or young person (for example, a false claim to residence in a catchment area) which effectively denied a place to a child with a stronger claim or where a place was offered by the local authority rather than by the admission authority in error.’

If the local authority/school does not receive a response even then, The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 allows them to remove the child from the roll after 20 school days. The local authority can then allocate the vacant place to a child on the waiting list.

Safeguarding

If admission authorities or schools are concerned about the safety of children from overseas who are in private fostering arrangements, they should act on these concerns in line with their safeguarding duties. These duties are set out in the Welsh Government statutory guidance Keeping learners safe and in the Wales Safeguarding Procedures.