Academies are failing vulnerable children in East Sussex, a council has warned.

East Sussex County Council has revealed that it is challenging some academies because they are refusing to admit pupils who are at risk of abuse or neglect. It said such academies are “failing in their duty”.

The council said the behaviour of the academies – of which there are five in the county – affected them.

Academies are publicly-funded independent schools which have a greater degree of freedom from local authorities and often have sponsors.

They are meant to be autonomous but the council said people still associate the institution – like The Eastbourne Academy – with the council.

And when academies reject difficult pupils it is the council who has to care for them, a report has warned.

The damning verdict is part of a scrutiny paper on “the roles and responsibilities of East Sussex County Council in relation to schools” and is due to be discussed tomorrow.

The report said: “There is a substantial risk that academies will not admit some vulnerable children.”

This is already happening, according to the council, particularly for pupils who have been excluded.

It said: “The council is challenging some academies to accept refused pupils, especially when there is space available.”

The council believes its reputation is at risk if academies fail to admit vulnerable children.

Councillor Kathryn Field, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group and vice-chairman of the children’s services scrutiny committee, said: “I have made no secret of my view that the relationship between schools and the local authority must be preserved.

“In East Sussex this has always been good and a real partnership. I regret anything which undermines this.”

Councillor Nick Bennett, the county’s lead member for children’s services, said: “I am committed to working with our children’s services teams to remain close to all the schools in East Sussex regardless of their status.

“Academies, as all schools, must take their share of all pupils in their catchment. They may not select and where such practice has been alleged we have investigated it and reminded academies of their responsibilities under the Education Acts.

“The council therefore has a strong role; not around the direction of the school itself, but as a broader authority looking out for children’s needs.”