Poor Children Should Have Priority Over Their Affluent Classmates, Says Sutton Trust Report
Schools should give priority to children from poor backgrounds in an attempt to further social mobility, a report by the Sutton Trust said on Friday.
The latest body to criticise the admissions code, after NASUWT's general secretary Chris Keates said: "The 'removal of burdens' and ‘simplification’ of the code are in truth the removal of necessary and valuable guidance on good practice and the undermining of all the safeguards in the current code. This will allow poor and discriminatory practice to return and flourish."
The Sutton Trust's report is in response to the government's proposals on changes to the school admissions code currently in place. Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the government's intention to reshape the way local authorities, school governing bodies and academies admit pupils into secondary schools last May. The government promised their proposals would increase the number of 'good' school places available, ban local authorities from using the lottery system and give priority to children of school staff who teach at over-subscribed schools.
But Sir Peter Lampl expressed fears over the latter proposal put forward by the government. The chairman and founder of the trust, which promotes social mobility through education, said: "It will become even harder to attract the best teachers to the most challenging schools.”
He added: “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.”
The trust's report addressed the issue of who should have priority in school admissions, saying children from poor backgrounds should be the main children to benefit when successful schools expand.
The report also supported the random allocation lottery system used to decide which children should go to oversubscribed schools, saying it is "a fair way of determining who gets school places.”
A spokesperson for the department for education said:
“We make no apologies for making it easier for schools to recruit and retain teachers and other staff. It is down to schools whether they use this power – and which staff to include if they do. The Trust is assuming that challenging schools can’t be turned round. We are raising the quality of schools – giving Academies freedom over pay and conditions has meant that top quality teaching have been recruited to previously struggling, under-performing schools. That will only continue as the academy programme expands.”