Exclusive: Force schools to admit fair share of poorer pupils, says academies boss

The school admissions system is in need of a 'huge overhaul', according to former 'super head' Dame Sally Coates

Eleanor Busby

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Schools should be forced to take a percentage of disadvantaged children that reflects the level of deprivation in their locality, Dame Sally Coates has said. 

Speaking to TES, the United Learning director of academies in the south of England described the huge variation in the intake of poorer children across schools within the same local authority as “madness”.

“[The current admissions system] doesn’t help social mobility," she said. "Every middle-class parent, if they’ve got their wits about them, plays the game. And the poor children are always the ones who are left behind.”

Dame Sally, former head of Burlington Danes Academy in west London, wants a review group set up to overhaul admissions with the publication of wider list of rules that schools have to abide by.

'I'm very angry about admissions'

Currently, most schools are required to prioritise looked-after children or children with special educational needs in their oversubscription criterion. But Dame Sally believes an additional requirement should be added.

“Why not have that you have to take a certain percentage of pupil-premium children which reflects the area your school is in? Why not spread children out?" she said.

“Some schools having 6 per cent pupil premium [pupils] and other schools having 70 per cent in the same local authority. It is just madness.”

Dame Sally added: “[Admissions is the] thing I feel most strongly about at the moment. It is absolutely in need of a huge overhaul. I feel very angry about admissions.”

The government’s push towards a fully academised education system, with more and more schools controlling their own admissions, means there has never been a more important time to change the system, Dame Sally believes.

“If schools do break the admissions code, then there should be more consequences,” she said. “I don’t think it should be left to schools and academy trusts. It should be centrally overseen.”

This is an edited article from the 2 September edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full interview with Dame Sally Coates here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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