Children in care are increasingly being turned away by academies, a freedom of information investigation has revealed.
Ministers have been asked to intervene 72 times over the last three years to use their power to force academies to accept looked after children, with some schools repeatedly blocking enrolment.
Official guidance states children in care should get top priority when it comes to schools admissions because they are vulnerable, with many having faced neglect, abuse or a chaotic home life.
While local authorities can force a council-run school to accept children, academies have power over their admissions policy. However, education secretary Gavin Williamson can overrule them.
Data released by the Department for Education to HuffPost UK shows the number of requests for an official government direction is climbing, with October last year marking the highest month on record, with five requests for intervention. In 2018, the minister was approached 23 times and in 2019 the figure rose to 27.
The call for assistance, which comes from a council via the Education and Skills Funding Agency, is usually a last resort as most disputes are resolved with a warning.
Sam Turner, from the charity for children in care and young care leavers Become, described the news as “deeply concerning” and said some youngsters may miss a term or face long journeys to reach an alternative school.
He added: “Many refusals won’t be challenged and won’t go as far as direct intervention by the secretary of state – how many more children are being affected by this open discrimination?
“Care experienced young people are more likely to experience disruption to their education due to frequent changes in where they live – school can be the one stable and secure place in their lives that offers them structure and support.”
HuffPost UK reported on academies using the “legal loophole” in 2018 and the government has said ministers planned to launch a review of the...