A deadline for applications for secondary school places across Ealing has been extended at the last minute after a school accused of promoting "social segregation" was ordered to change its admissions policy.
High-achieving Drayton Manor High School, in Hanwell, has been unfairly rejecting dozens of children who live less than a mile away on the deprived Cuckoo, Copley Close and High Lane estates, according to the Office of The Schools Adjudicator.
Officials this week told it to change its policy for pupils applying for entry next September.
The school immediately launched a legal challenge, and a High Court judge will decide on Monday whether the ruling should stand.
The legal wrangle forced Ealing Council to extend its deadline from today (Friday) to November 12 so parents have the chance to reapply. The extension applies only to paper applications because of technical difficulties with the council's online system.
Objections were first raised by Brentside High School earlier this year after it emerged Drayton Manor routinely rejects pupils who live less than a mile away but have another school nearer, regardless of whether they have applied there.
Figures show that most of the pupils who fall into that category come from deprived areas, and 131 of those turned down over the last three years - 62 per cent overall - live in one of the three nearby estates.
Headteacher Sir Pritpal Singh refuted the initial claims as "preposterous" and said 26 per cent of pupils offered a place at Drayton Manor live in the most deprived areas, while just eight per cent of those turned away come from the same estates. But the adjudicator agreed the policy was "unfair" to families living in the affected area and "inconsistent" with the Government's admissions code.
"This case has been robustly argued by the council and the school," the report said. "Normally positive and productive professional relationships between them have been strained."
A Drayton Manor spokesman said: "The school has commenced an urgent challenge to the adjudicator's decision in the High Court. In the circumstances it would be inappropriate to comment further."
The council is now writing to parents of all Year 6 primary school pupils. Two public meetings will be held in the Elizabeth Cantell Room at Ealing Town Hall, on Wednesday, October 29 at 10.30am and on Friday, November 7 at 7pm. [
* For more information or to request an application form, call the council's admissions team on 0208 825 5522.