More than 1,500 primary schools in England have “highly socially selective” intakes, new research has concluded.
Many disadvantaged pupils may be missing out on places at high-performing primaries because of complicated oversubscription criteria that are hard for parents to navigate, according to a Sutton Trust report.
The most socially selective primary schools, which tend to use lengthy admissions criteria, have intakes that are socially very different to the areas that they are situated in, the findings show. One school used as many as 18 different oversubscription criteria – when a typical primary school would use five.
Researchers Rebecca Allen and Meenakshi Parameshwaran, from Education Datalab, measured the difference between the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals in a school’s intake and that of its local neighbourhood, to assess social selectivity.
They found that the top 10 per cent “most socially selective” primaries – 1,576 schools serving 310,000 pupils – have a proportion of disadvantaged pupils that is at least 9.2 percentage points lower than that found in the communities they serve.
Dr Allen said: “Our new research shows that there is not equity in access to many primary schools, either because higher-income families are advantaged in their ability to exercise choice or because [schools’] admissions criteria favour certain pupils.”
The report calls for the Schools Admissions Code to be fully enforced, with clearer criteria and open complaints procedures, and for the prioritisation of pupil-premium children.
The findings have been published just before national primary offer day on Monday, when thousands of parents will find out if their children have secured their preferred school. But many are likely to miss out.
Separate new analysis from the FindASchool website, shared exclusively with TES, shows it has become increasingly difficult to gain a place in all state primaries – even those judged to “require improvement”. Over the past five years, the difference in the average size of catchment areas between schools with good and bad Ofsted ratings has more than halved.
The Department for Education said that it would be consulting on amending the School Admissions Code.
For more, see “By The Numbers” on page 13