Disadvantaged pupils missing out on places at ‘socially selective’ primaries, report finds

More than 1,500 primary schools in England have “highly socially selective” intakes, new research has concluded.

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 difficult for parents to navigate, according to a report from the Sutton Trust.

The most socially selective primary schools – which tend to use lengthy admissions criteria – have intakes that are socially very different to the areas 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.

The 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 are at least 9.2 percentage points lower than that found in the communities they serve.

Dr Allen said: “Our new research shows that 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 their admissions criteria favour certain pupils.”

The report calls for the Schools Admissions Code to be properly enforced – with clearer criteria and open complaints procedures – and for schools to prioritise pupil premium children.

The findings come just before national primary offer day on Monday, when thousands of parents will find out if their children have secured their preferred school. The bulge in pupil numbers means that many will be disappointed.

Analysis revealed by TES yesterday shows that even primaries with poor Ofsted ratings are now becoming much tougher to get into.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Determining admissions policies on the basis of wealth is both morally wrong and against the law.

“All schools must follow the School Admissions Code, which should make sure that school places are allocated fairly, with an admissions policy that does not unfairly disadvantage children from a particular social or racial group, or those with a disability or special educational needs.

“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.”

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