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The Greenwich Judgement of 1990 declared as unlawful a decision by Greenwich Local Education Authority (LEA) to give priority in school admissions to its own residents over residents from neighbouring LEAs, clarifying that applicants must be treated equally, whether they reside inside or outside the authority.[1] It has been associated with a decline in the use of catchment areas as a means of managing school admissions,[2] and an associated increase in cross-border mobility.[3]



Greenwich's policy on admissions had been formed in the context of the dissolution of the Inner London Education Authority, and was similar to established LEA policies used in other parts of the country. However, following complaints from parents and school leaders in neighbouring Lewisham, the policy was judged to be in breach of section 6(5) of the Education Act 1980.[4] [5] This set a precedent in UK law, establishing that maintained schools may not give admissions priority to children for the sole reason that they live within the LEA's administrative boundaries.[6] The judgement was later codified in section 86(8)(a) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and also in the National Admissions Code.[7][8]

The Rotherham Judgement (1997) later established that the principle of admission authorities operating catchment areas as part of their over-subscription criteria in allocating school places was lawful provided that in so doing authorities are not in breach of the Greenwich judgement.[6][9] Parental preference was confirmed to have primacy, so that applicants from outside of a school's catchment area, who express a preference for that school, should be prioritised over applicants within the catchment area who express no preference.[10] [11]

Interpretation & MitigationEdit

Despite the Greenwich Judgement, catchment areas can be wholly contained within administrative boundaries, and even coincide with administrative boundaries, provided the area is clearly defined and there is some additional justification for the choice of area that is considered reasonable, such as distance from the school or ease of access.[8][12] It is common for catchment area boundaries to be aligned with well defined geographical features such as postcode areas and roads, and these sometimes coincide with administrative boundaries.[13] Some faith schools have catchment areas that are aligned with diocesan boundaries or deaneries which follow the Local Authority's boundaries, and these have been deemed not in breach of the Greenwich Judgement provided that faith criteria are also applied.[14] Some Grammar schools, community schools and academies which have historically aligned their catchments with administrative boundaries, have been able to sustain their arrangements in spite of the Greenwich Judgement.[15][16][17][18] More recently there have been Local Authorities who have set up new catchment areas coinciding with their borough boundary, and these have been judged to be acceptable by the Schools Adjudicator.[19] Catchment area boundaries, in common with other over-subscription criteria used in admissions policies, must not unfairly disadvantage children from particular social or racial groups.[8]

A number of Local Authorities wishing to reduce the impact of the Greenwich Judgement have abandoned catchment areas in favour of Nodal Points (or Admissions Points), which are the equivalent of defining the centres of catchment areas but with no outer borders.[20] [21] [22] There are also schools which use a single point on the borough boundary to define the radius of a circular catchment area.[23]


Some Local Authorities have found that the increase in cross-border movement associated with the Greenwich Judgement makes it more difficult for them to fulfil their statutory duty to ensure all children within their area are offered a school place.[1] It also removed from LEAs one means of helping local families to secure places at local schools of their choice.[3] The Liberal Democrats have attempted to persuade the UK Parliament that the Greenwich Judgement should be repealed, due to perceived negative effects on school admissions patterns in some Local Authorities.[24][25] The Royal London Borough of Kingston upon Thames has also attempted to overturn the judgement via the Local Government Association.[26] Bromley LEA challenged the Greenwich judgement in the High Court and House of Lords but was unsuccessful.[14] Manchester City Council also expressed its disappointment with the Greenwich Judgement after its 10 year old admissions policy was found to be in breach of it in 2015.[27]


  1. ^ a b "School place planning" (PDF). Education England. Audit Commission. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Parents' Experiences of the Process of Choosing a Secondary School" (PDF). National Archives. Department for Education and Skills. Archived from the original on 23 March 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ a b Ewens, David. "Cross-border pupil mobility An analysis of the 2002 London Pupil Dataset" (PDF). Bristol University. Greater London Authority. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  4. ^ R v Greenwich London Borough Council, ex parte John Ball Primary School, 88 LGR 589 [1990] Fam Law 469 (1989).
  5. ^ "Regina v Greenwich London Borough Council, Ex parte Governors of the John Ball Primary School". Times Law Reports. The Times. 27 September 1989.
  6. ^ a b "Select Committee on Education and Skills Fourth Report". UK Parliament. Retrieved 9 August 2017. This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Open Parliament Licence Archived 2017-03-08 at the Wayback Machine. © Parliamentary copyright 2004.
  7. ^ "School Standards and Framework Act 1998, Section 86". Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "School admissions code (2014)". Department for Education. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  9. ^ R v Rotherham Metropolitan Council ex parte Clark and others, EWCA Civ 2768 (Court of Appeal (Civil Division) 04 November 1999).
  10. ^ O'Hanlon, Kate (26 November 1997). "Law Report: Policy must allow expression of parental preference". The Independent. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Regina v Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Ex parte Clark and Others". Times Law Reports. The Times. 20 November 1997.
  12. ^ "Determination - Case references:ADA/001136; ADA/001160; ADA/001161; ADA/001162; ADA/001166; ADA/001167". National Archives. Schools adjudicator. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ "Brighton and Hove Secondary Admissions Catchment Boundaries for 2016-17" (PDF). Brighton & Hove County Council. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Determination - Case reference: ADA/000493, ADA/000494, ADA/000495". National Archives. Schools Adjudicator. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  15. ^ "Determination - Case reference: ADA/000541, ADA/000567, ADA/00548". National Archives. Schools Adjudicator. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  16. ^ "Buckinghamshire maintained schools catchment area maps (2011)" (PDF). Buckinghamshire County Council. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Rotherham School Catchment Areas 2018". Google Maps. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Determination - Case reference: REF3342" (PDF). Office of the Schools Adjudicator. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Determination: Case Reference ADA3277" (PDF). Office of the Schools Adjudicator. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Sandwell Academy Initiative Update". Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Sandwell Academy Centroid Points" (PDF). Sandwell Academy. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Consultation Findings: School Admissions Criteria" (PDF). London Borough of Hillingdon. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  23. ^ "King Edward VI School - Admissions Policy 2017" (PDF). King Edward V1 School. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  24. ^ Davey, Edward. "Early Day Motion 1206 - The Greenwich Judgement". Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  25. ^ Burstow, Paul. "Early day motion 686 - Greenwich Judgement and School Admission Policy". UK Parliament. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  26. ^ "Borough seeks to overturn schools ruling". localGov. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  27. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (18 Mar 2015). "Manchester council told high school admissions policy breaches government guidelines". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 22 August 2017.