All schools could be allowed to change their admissions policy so they give priority to disadvantaged children, under new plans put forward by ministers.
The government has announced it is consulting on changes to the admissions code that would give youngsters who are eligible for the pupil premium first choice on school places.
In the 2014/15 financial year the premium will be £1,300 per primary-age pupil and £935 per secondary-age pupil, so schools managing to boost their numbers in this way stand to gain financially.
Under the latest proposals, which are subject to consultation, all state schools would have the freedom to give priority in admissions to youngsters who attract the funding.
Academies and free schools are already able to do this, but other schools, including grammars, have to apply for special permission from the Department for Education. The move would iron out this discrepancy.
The consultation says: “These changes are consistent with the government’s social-mobility agenda and will allow schools the opportunity to support the least advantaged in society in a practical way.”
It adds that there will be no legal requirement for schools to prioritise pupil-premium children, and it is up to them to decide.
The document also puts forward a proposal to allow primary schools to give priority to children eligible for pupil premium who attend a nursery that is part of their school.
The proposals come just weeks after schools minister David Laws said he was encouraged to see that grammar schools are now using the pupil premium as part of their admissions criteria when offering places to pupils.
About 32 grammars are prioritising pupils on free school meals – a key measure of poverty – in their admissions, and a further 58 are thought to be planning to do so.