School appeals ‘entrenching unfairness’

11 Apr 19

The school appeals process in England is reinforcing inequalities in education, a think-tank has warned.

Families in the most affluent areas of the country are twice as likely to secure their top choice of secondary school through the appeals system, according to analysis by the Education Policy Institute.

The EPI said that pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds were also less likely to win appeals and called on the government to deliver on its 2017 manifesto promise to reform the school admission system or “risk damaging social mobility”.

EPI senior researcher Emily Hunt, the author of the report, said: “This research shows that the school appeals and waiting lists system in England is reinforcing inequalities in education, with more deprived families and those from some ethnic minority backgrounds less likely to get into their preferred schools.

“It is clear from our research that the current appeals and waiting lists system is not consistent with the government’s aim of an education system that prioritises the most disadvantaged.

“The government should deliver on its recent promise to review the schools admission system, or risk damaging social mobility.”

In 2016–17, 86,000 families were offered a school that was not their top choice, while 459,000 were given their preferred school.

Of the families not offered their first choice, 15% (13,000) successfully appealed and secured a place in their preferred school, according to the EPI research.

But success in the appeal system “varies considerably” by family background, ethnicity and pupil attainment at primary school, the EPI said.

Its research, published today, found that for pupils in the least deprived areas, the odds of securing a first-choice school through the appeals and waiting list system are twice as high as those living in the most deprived areas.

Black and Asian pupils are also less likely to get a place in their top choice of school through the appeals and waiting list system than white British and Chinese pupils. Just 10% of Black and 12% of Asian pupils get their first choice through this route, compared to 21 of white and 17% of Chinese pupils.

Up to 13% of disadvantaged pupils – those eligible for the pupil premium grant – also miss out on their first choice through appeals and waiting lists, compared to 18% of non-disadvantaged pupils.

The EPI also estimated that pupils with low attainment at the end of primary school are eight percentage points less likely to get their first choice than those with high attainment.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are on track to deliver a million new school places this decade, giving more parents access to a good school place.

“Every parent or carer who has been refused a place at a school has the right to appeal. We have provided guidance for parents to help them understand the process and have made clear to appeals panels they must ensure the process is consistent, with all parties being treated fairly.”

Think-tank research recently found that special educational needs budgets have been cut by 17% in England since 2015.

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