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Lotteries should decide secondary school admissions, parents say

Nearly half of parents say they would support lotteries to allocate at least some places in secondary schools, according to a new poll.

The research by social-mobility charity the Sutton Trust found that, given the case of an oversubscribed comprehensive school, 28 per cent of parents wanted all places to be allocated by ballot and 19 per cent thought half should be allocated by a ballot and half by distance.

Forty-one per cent thought all places should be allocated by distance and the remaining 12 per cent did not know.

The Trust released the YouGov poll of of 1,169 parents today alongside its ten-point "mobility manifesto", which includes a call for fairer admissions to secondary schools. It says that better-off families dominate leading comprehensives and grammar schools and it calls for more ballots or banding to ensure fairer admissions.

Dr Lee Elliot Major, the Sutton Trust's director of policy and development, said: “Fairer admissions and fairer access must be at the heart of any programme to improve social mobility. Our poll shows a public appetite for change in oversubscribed comprehensives and academies. We need changes too to ensure fair access to grammar schools, independent schools and elite universities.”

The scramble to get a place in desirable secondary schools can push house prices up in the surrounding area. One in ten parents would be willing to pay an extra £50,000 to live within catchment of their chosen school, comparison website Confused.com revealed this week.

A 2010 study of the lottery system introduced in Brighton in 2007, which was designed to reduce ‘selection by mortgage’, found that, because it was based on catchment areas, pupils in the poorest areas still missed out on the most popular schools.

Brighton City Council is now starting a review of secondary school admissions procedures in order to meet the growth in student numbers. Any changes would not be made before 2016.

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “ATL believes that fairness in school admissions is absolutely vital, and is becoming increasingly difficult as the range of school types increases. While allocating places by ballot may seem fairer, it will make admissions to oversubscribed schools even more complex and is likely to lead to parents who are unsuccessful feeling their child is attending a ‘second best’ school."

Research by campaigners Comprehensive Future has found that there is a wide variation in admissions policies with around 20 per cent of pupils facing entry tests on ability to move on to secondary school.

In Yorkshire and Humber, 82 per cent of schools did not make reference to faith or ability tests, in inner London only 39 per cent of schools do not have some kind of faith or test requirement.

 

Related stories

School admissions are ‘bewildering’ to parents, report claims 2 Jun 2014

Opinion: The government’s policy on social mobility is seriously flawed 10 Jun 2014

 Admissions lotteries and banding on the rise in secondaries, report reveals  27 Feb 2014

 

 

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