Call for disadvantaged children to get school places priority

25 Aug 11
The government should give children from poor backgrounds priority in school admissions, the education think tank the Sutton Trust has said today.

By Richard Johnstone | 26 August 2011

The government should give children from poor backgrounds priority in school admissions, the education think‑tank the Sutton Trust has said today.

Changes planned by the Department for Education to the school admissions code aim to make it easier for popular schools to expand. The Sutton Trust is urging ministers to ensure that disadvantaged pupils are ‘the main children to benefit’ when they do.

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced plans to reform and slim down both the schools admissions and appeals codes in May. The proposed changes include allowing academy schools andnew free schools, which can be set up by parents, teachers, charities and other groupsoutwith local authority control, to prioritise places for children who qualify for free school meals.

However, in its response to the government’s proposals, the Sutton Trust said that this priority should not just be limited to some schools, but available to all state schools.

The chair of the trust, Sir Peter Lampl, said that allowing schools to give preference to children from disadvantaged backgrounds is ‘crucial if pupil premium funding is to operate truly as an incentive for schools to actively recruit children from poorer homes’.

He said: ‘While we support good schools expanding, we are concerned that schools would tend to recruit more affluent students. A solution would be to make expansion conditional on giving first preference to all children eligible for free school meals before allowing other children to take up the extra places. This would ensure that successful schools which had the appetite to grow would recruit the pupils who would most benefit.’

In its contribution to the consultation, which closed on August 19 and is now being considered by ministers, the Sutton Trust also says that it is opposed to the proposal allowing schools to give preference in admissions to children of their own teachers.

The DfE proposes giving schools the right to prioritise children of school staff when it is over-subscribed. It argues would make it easier for schools to recruit staff, including teachers.

However, the trust says that would provide a disincentive to teachers with children to work in the most challenging schools.


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