Exclusive: Control over admissions should be removed from schools, new study recommends

Academics say there are too many incentives for schools to ‘choose’ the most desirable pupils

Control over admissions should be removed from schools, according to a new report, which places further pressure on ministers to reform an “unduly complex” system.

London School of Economics (LSE) researchers Anne West and Audrey Hind argue that changes are needed to make school admissions fairer and simpler.

Their study of state secondary admissions in London, published today, finds that the proportion of schools selecting pupils by aptitude in a subject has doubled from 5 per cent to 10 per cent by since 2001. It also finds that the use of catchment areas has tripled from 6 per cent to 18 per cent over the same period.

“There is a concern that with increasing academisation and more schools controlling their own admissions, there will be even greater complexity,” the researchers write. “Moreover, at least in some cases, schools appear to be choosing pupils rather than parents choosing schools for their children.”

Earlier this week, headteachers’ leaders called for admissions to be returned fully to local authorities. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, told its annual conference: “It is not appropriate for schools to act as their own admissions authorities.”

‘Choosing pupils’

The LSE report – “Secondary School Admissions in London 2001 to 2015: compliance, complexity and control” – echoes warnings from the government’s schools admissions regulator earlier this year about an increasingly fragmented system that, all too often, leaves parents in the dark and fails to serve children well.

It concludes: “No schools should carry out their own admissions – that is, decide if applicants meet the admissions criteria – as the incentives to ‘choose’ the most desirable pupils are great.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “All schools must follow the school admissions code, which should make sure school places are allocated fairly. Parents with concerns should report them to the schools adjudicator, who can intervene.

“Our recent White Paper is aimed at empowering parents to hold schools and the system to account. Alongside this, we will also be consulting on amending the mandatory school admissions code.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 6 May edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here. TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoogle GmailShare