Parents and pupils are facing “increasing disruption” when applying for school places, especially when they move during the school year, a research review has found.
The report, published today by the Research and Information on State Education, says that the removal of councils’ duty to coordinate in-year admissions has made it more difficult for children to get school places.
“Close monitoring of how admissions are working across a local area will be needed,” it says, adding that children moving schools during the academic year tend to be more vulnerable than others. In 2011-12 there were 300,000 in-year admissions.
The report says that, because academies set their own admissions policies, they had “more opportunities to reject in-year applications and delay alerting the local authority”.
The review highlights research that found schools acting as their own admissions authority, such as academies, were less likely to comply with the government’s admissions codes.
A greater proportion of these schools did not publish their admissions arrangements in time, had “unnecessarily complex criteria” and were reluctant to accept children who were difficult to place in line with their local Fair Access Protocol.
The report calls for “strong regulation” of the admissions system to ensure that places were fairly allocated.
Regulation is necessary because schools have “strong incentives” to admit children from more affluent families with higher levels of prior attainment, it adds.
The review says research has found no link between children’s socio-economic status and their chance of getting a place at their first choice of school. However, it said, richer children were more likely than poorer children to attend high-performing schools.
One explanation, it says, is that studies found poorer families were less likely to choose high-performing schools, even when both sets of parents had the same group of schools to choose from.
The findings were published in the week of national offer day, when families found out whether their child had been given a place at their first choice of secondary school. In London, 68 per cent of applicants received a place at their first choice of school, fewer than in the previous two years. Final national figures have not yet been published.
Too many schools are breaking admissions rules, chief adjudicator warns – 16 January, 2015
School admissions are 'bewildering' to parents, report claims – 2 June, 2014