Admissions Policy


The Acorn Free School is an alternative provision school for pupils aged 11-16 who would benefit from a placement away from their mainstream setting.

The aim of the school is to promote inclusion, raise standards of behaviour and achievement by proactive early intervention. This will support schools in reducing fixed term and permanent exclusions.

Pupils are likely, but not exclusively, to have experienced school attendance issues, social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Pupils who will benefit from a placement at the Acorn Free School are likely to fall into the following categories:-

  • Pupils who have had, or are at risk of having a fixed term or permanent exclusion
  • Pupils who are disaffected with mainstream education to such an extent that continuation of a full-time placement in their setting is no longer a positive option
  • Pupils who have social and emotional issues which are impacting on their education. This may manifest itself through negative and challenging behaviours or withdrawal from education and school life
  • Pupils who have been bullied, or have bullied others
  • Pupils who have had patterns of poor school attendance and cannot re-establish consistent attendance at their mainstream setting
  • Pupils who are disadvantaged and vulnerable due to a range of social circumstances (e.g. families experiencing risks such as poverty, substance misuse, mental health issues )

The purpose of this document is to set out the school’s admission policy and to demonstrate that pupil admissions will be fair, open and transparent. The admissions policy will:

  • Offer schools and academies early intervention placements to meet the needs of disaffected and vulnerable pupils and those who are at risk of permanent exclusion, or who have been permanently excluded
  • Enable the Acorn Free School to provide a structured, stable environment which will ensure that we are able to meet the individual needs of each pupil
  • Provide a rapid response to schools and academies within 48 hours of emergency referral
  • Support the aims of the Acorn Free School which is to re-engage pupils with learning and return them to a mainstream education

Admission Arrangements

The primary aim of the Acorn Free School is to provide early intervention for schools and pupils and help re-engage pupils with their learning in a mainstream setting. Due to this the majority of placements at the Acorn Free School will be short term, dual registered which will be subject to regular review. Full time or longer term placements will be available where it is clear that an early return to mainstream school would not be appropriate.

The Acorn Academy Trust will only admit pupils to the Acorn Free School in line with this admissions policy and following referral from an academy, a maintained school or by a Local Authority.

The Acorn Free School will be run in accordance with all equalities law. It will admit pupils aged between 11 and 16 years who have been referred to the schools admissions panel through one of the referral routes set out below:

  1. Referred by an Academy which, under general powers in the Articles of the Academy Trust may send pupils off-site to an alternative provision Academy as part of early intervention measures to address behaviour
  2. Named pupils on application from the local authority, in accordance with a School Attendance Order1 after consultation with the Secretary of State.
  3. Referred by a maintained school or Academy may when they have a duty under Section 100 of the Education and Inspections Act 20062.
  4. Referred by the local authority where they have a duty under section 19 of the Education act 19963.
  5. Referred by a maintained school under powers set out in section 29(A) of the Education Act 20024.

1Local authorities are able to issue school attendance orders if a child is not attending school. These are legally binding upon parents. Such an order might, for instance, be appropriate where a child has a place at Acorn Free School but his/her parents are refusing to send him/her to school. The order will require a parent to ensure his/her child attends a specified school.

2Section 100 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires maintained schools and Academies to arrange full-time education for pupils on a fixed period exclusion of more than five days from the sixth day of the exclusion.

3Section 19 of the Education Act 1996, and regulations made under that section, require a local authority to make arrangements (from the sixth day of exclusion where a pupil has been permanently excluded) for the provision of suitable, full time (unless there are medical reasons as to why this would not be appropriate) education at school or otherwise for a child of compulsory school age who, for a range of reasons, would otherwise be without education.

4Section 29A of the Education Act 2002 provides that governing bodies of maintained schools may direct a pupil off-site ‘for purpose of receiving educational provision which is intended to improve pupil behaviour.

Acorn Free School does not accept applications from parents/carers or self-referrals from potential pupils.

Pupil Admission Numbers

The Acorn Free School has a published pupil admission number of 48 full-time equivalent (FTE) places. Pupil numbers will increase over time from 2013 – 2017 as set out below.

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
Admission Numbers FTE 24 32 40 48

As the school will operate with predominantly short-term and part-time placements the admission numbers should allow for considerable flexibility in meeting commissioner’s needs.

Pupils will not be admitted above the published admission number unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Admission Procedures

The referral procedure is as follows:-

  1. Applications for a placement must be made on the Acorn Free School referral form – this can be found in Appendix A and on our website x. All referral forms need to be accompanied with the pupil’s most recent IEP or behaviour plan
  2. Acorn Free School will discuss potential referrals both with commissioners and the pupil’s parents/carers, where a pupil is not already known to the Acorn outreach service.
  3. Referrals may be made at any time throughout the year, however the Acorn admissions panel will sit every six weeks to agree placements for the following term. The dates for all admissions panel meetings will be published at the start of the academic year.
    The panel will consist of :-
    a. Headteacher of Acorn Free School,
    b. Independent trustee of the Acorn Free School
    c. Independent Local Councillor
    d. Designated Headteacher from a Lincolnshire secondary school.If required, the following agencies may be invited to contribute about specific cases.
    a) Representative from Education Welfare Service.
    b) Representative from Looked After Children Service.
    c) Representative from Youth Offending Team
    d) Representative from Children’s ServicesPlacements will be offered to all pupils whose needs can be met by the Acorn Free School, subject to published admission numbers.
  4. Whilst the majority of referrals will come through the termly panel, the Acorn Free School will also offer emergency placements subject to published admission numbers. Commissioners may request an emergency placement when they deem that waiting for the next admissions panel will have a significantly detrimental effect on the pupil. Circumstances when this could arise are likely, but not exclusively, to be:-when a critical incident has occurred in school
    when the pupil is at immediate risk of permanent exclusion
    when there has been a significant and unforeseen deterioration in a pupils behaviour or emotional wellbeing
    Requests for emergency placements should be made directly to the Headteacher of the Acorn Free School.
  5. Within 48 hours of an emergency placement request the head teacher of the Acorn Free School will contact the commissioner to set up an induction meeting with parents/carers, SENCO and any other relevant agency.

Pupil registration and information sharing

The numbers on roll at the Acorn Free School will fluctuate throughout the academic year. The Acorn Free School will make sure that all pupils are registered accordingly in line with section 434 of the Education Act 1996. All part-time pupils or those attending on early intervention or on a fixed term exclusion will remain on the register at the commissioning school and with the Acorn Free School (dual registration). A pupil attending which has been permanently excluded will be removed from the parent schools register and be single registered at the Acorn Free School.

Oversubscription Criteria and Appeals

The Acorn Free School aims to be flexible in its approach to placement requests and will at all times strive to offer a part-time 2 day per week placement as a minimum to commissioners. In the case of oversubscription, after the admission of pupils with statements of Special Educational Needs where Acorn Free School is named on the statement, the following criteria will be applied

  1. Looked After Children who are in public care and previously Looked After Children
  2. Following that, pupils will be offered a place at the Acorn Free School according to individual need and whether these can be best met by a placement at the school. Additional information from commissioners will be requested to make an informed judgement as follows:– Evidence from any professionals or supporting agencies stating that placement at the Acorn Free School would meet the pupils needs
    – Details of strategies and support implemented in school and the current level of provision in place for the pupil
    – Number and duration of fixed term and permanent exclusions in the preceding year. Those pupils with the highest number of exclusions will take precedence

Placements will be offered initially to pupils where the commissioning school can evidence that another professional or external agency has recommended or supported a referral.

Priority will then be given pupils where the commissioning school can demonstrate that they have fulfilled all of the criteria for pupils at school action plus as recognised in the SEN code of practice.

Commissioners have the right of appeal against the refusal of a place at the Acorn Free School. Commissioners wishing to appeal must follow the procedure contained within the complaints policy.