§ Mr. Willis
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list by local education authority(a) the number of admission appeals held to date under the current admissions regulations and (b) the current number of surplus school places; and if he will make a statement on the continuing role of local education authorities in setting school admissions policies for their areas. 
§ Ms Estelle Morris
[holding answer 8 November 1999]: The current system for dealing with admission appeals began on 1 September, when we also published statutory guidance in the new Code of Practice on School Admission Appeals. The first set of figures for appeals under this system, for the year ending August 2000, will be available in July 2001. The latest available statistics on admission appeals for 1997–98 by Local Education Authority can be found in Statistical First Release 19/1999, Admission Appeals for Maintained Primary and Secondary Schools by Local Education Authority area in England 1997–98, a copy of which is in the Library. Overall, 53,370 admission appeals were heard during the 1997–98 academic year, with 20,316 decided in favour of parents.
Surplus places figures are collected annually providing a summary of the level of surplus as at January of that year. For the position as at January 1998 I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Lorna Fitzsimons) on the 4 February 1999, Official Report, columns 709-14. New figures as at January 1999 will be published shortly and copies will be placed in the Library.
Under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, the Local Education Authority is the admission authority for community and voluntary controlled schools. Foundation and voluntary aided schools are responsible for their own admissions. The Act ensures that admissions authorities consult with each other within the relevant area. Where there are disputes, these are a matter for the Schools Adjudicator rather than the Local Education Authority. The Local Education Authority is required to provide parents with a booklet setting out the details of all the admissions policies of schools in their area in order to help parents choose their preferred school.
Headteachers and Local Education Authorities are encouraged to work together in local admissions forums to discuss admission arrangements and develop a common timetable to assist parents. Many Local Education Authorities have already established Admissions Forums, and many more have plans to do so.