Proposed new code bans schools from interviewing pupils prior to admission to prevent discrimination The British government is clamping down on covert methods of selection used by schools to block the admission of children from poorer, less academically oriented families. In a proposed new code, schools will be banned from interviewing prospective pupils or parents. Nor can they set any tests of ability or knowledge. They will not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of socio or economic background or family connections with the school. Neither will they be allowed to screen out pupils with poor discipline unless this has resulted in at least two permanent exclusions. Alan Johnson, the education secretary, said: 'We have toughened up the rules governing admission. These changes will help schools to deliver a fair and equitable school system and banish any selection by stealth.' The changes will remove the loophole in the current rules, introduced when selection was officially banned in 1998, which state merely that schools must 'have regard to' the code when setting admissions policy. In future they will have to act 'in accordance with' the new code. The new code fulfils a key concession to MPs who last year threatened mass rebellion against Prime Minister Tony Blair's flagship reforms which would encourage the setting up of state-funded trust schools with some extra freedom to choose which pupils to admit. The commitment to equality of opportunity is underlined in the detail of the code which will prohibit schools from discouraging poor parents from seeking places. For instance, it says they should not require pupils to wear expensive uniforms or sports outfits that might exclude pupils on the grounds of affordability unless arrangements are put in place to ensure parents on low incomes can afford them. Similarly, schools must not imply that donations or voluntary contributions are expected from parents and should not describe school trips without making it clear that help is available for those who cannot afford the cost. The code also bans faith schools from discriminating on the grounds of parents' church-going habits. However, they can use evidence of a child's religious belief as a criteria if they are oversubscribed, for instance by asking for a note from their priest. Mr Johnson said: 'This package of measures ends practices that create unfairness. There will be no return to selection, no interviews used to decide whether a child should be offered a place at a school and no consideration of such things as marital status of parents or their ability to contribute financially to the school.' However, the National Union of Teachers said the draft did not go far enough because it offered only guidance on some subtle forms of selection, instead of banning them outright. Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, said: 'The government's love of increased diversity and marketisation of schools puts pressure on head teachers to look for loopholes in the code. Local authorities must have the power to intervene to ensure that schools do not select by subterfuge and undermine the spirit of the code.' The draft code, incorporated in the Education Bill, has been put out for consultation until December 1 and will come into force in February.