Schools in England have been told to ensure they are fully complying with the admissions code governing how places are allocated to children.
The demand comes following publication of the annual report of the Chief Schools Adjudicator for England, which suggested that there has been a significant rise in complaints to the adjudicator in the 12 months to September 2012.
Complaints specifically related to admissions arrangements rose from 127 last year to 156, while the total number of complaints also increased to 265.
Among the main issues were local authorities (LAs) failing to give children's parents information they need in time for them to make a choice about which establishments they wish to apply to.
Many also involved catchment areas and a lack of priority being given to brothers and sisters of existing students.
Dr Elizabeth Passmore, the chief schools adjudicator said that schools have responded promptly to the new admissions code by giving priority to children who were previously looked after by the local authority and have been adopted in their over-subscription criteria.
However, she said that more still needs to be done to make sure they are in compliance with the code. Dr Passmore said that fair access procedures are currently working well when it comes to placing children who do not have a school in the establishment that best suits their needs. However, she outlined a number of steps to take.
These include making sure that LAs use local media to publicise closing dates for applications so parents are given fair warning to apply in time; and the Department for Education issuing guidance to LAs and academies on steps to follow when it comes to admitting children without a school place.
Dr Passmore said: "This is my first annual report since taking up post as chief adjudicator and it has been another busy year for the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. We have received increasingly complex cases and have needed to work within old and new legislation at the same time this year.
"I would like to thank my team of adjudicators, administrative staff and legal advisers for the valuable work they do. Our aim is to address often difficult and emotional disputes with our professional and fair application of the legislation and guidance available to us."
Posted by Tim Coleman