Fair School Admissions

Advocating for change to school admissions in England

 

Why admissions need changing

The school you attend matters, but those from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to attend a top performing secondary school than their more affluent peers, even if there is one in their area. The key to unlocking the potential of disadvantaged young people lies in providing them with fair access to the best schools.

90% of secondary schools now develop their own admissions policies, including their over-subscription criteria. This gives schools the power to ensure that all young people have a fair opportunity to join their school.

Our Fair School Admissions Pledge aims to support schools to make meaningful change to their admissions processes in order to support all children in their communities.

The benefits of changing the system

Fair access for pupils

Fair access for pupils

All children deserve access to high-performing schools and we know how influential education is on long-term outcomes.

Level playing field for school outcomes

Level playing field for school outcomes

A better social mix secures a more level playing field for schools to secure their best outcomes and retain staff.

 

 

 

Social diversity

Social diversity

It promotes social diversity and creates a more representative community.

Parental empowerment

Parental empowerment

It empowers parents to make effective school choices, which increases their investment and engagement with schools.

 

Cost effective

Cost effective

It is a cost effective, long-term, system change that schools have the power to make.

 

 

 

There are many state schools with fair admissions policies, which enable pupils from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds to attend their schools. Others have diverse intakes often as a result of the characteristics of their local area.

But our research has found that there are still many state comprehensive schools that are in effect socially selective, with admissions policies and the local housing market preventing many families from accessing their settings. We understand that schools might be keen to do more to make their schools more inclusive but are unsure of what to do or how to go about this.

To help schools change their admissions, we are proud to launch the Fair School Admissions Pledge and the Fair School Admissions Award. 

We are looking for forward-thinking, values-driven school leaders to join the Pledge and make change in their school.

Our offering to schools

The Pledge


The Trust will work with schools, Multi Academy Trusts and local authorities that commit to the Fair School Admissions Pledge to review their existing policies and make relevant changes to help improve the inclusivity of their schools.

Schools that sign up to the Pledge will benefit from online CPD and a wealth of templates and resources such as model policies and Fair Access Review proformas. Schools will also have the opportunity to connect with like-minded schools offer peer support and collaboration. The Pledge will be led by our own experts at The Sutton Trust allowing schools to access their knowledge and experience in Fair School Admissions.

At the end of the Pledge, Admissions Authorities can apply for the Fair School Admissions Award.

The Award


Some schools, MATs and Local Authorities are already making great progress on admissions. We want to recognise those successes through our Fair School Admissions Award.

If your school has already taken action to make your admissions processes fairer, simply request our short application form, in which you can attach relevant evidence on your school’s inclusive admission practices and include a brief reflection on the positive impact this has had on their school and wider community.

Bronze, Silver and Gold award categories will be available, to recognise the different levels of progress schools will have made, from reviewing intakes and policies, to making changes to admissions policies.

Fair admissions in action

Annual Fair Access Review

Annual Fair Access Review

School leaders, including school governors, should implement a fair access review for their school. This should include reflecting on their year 7 intake each year and reviewing whether it reflects the local and national pictures in terms of levels of socio-economic disadvantage, as well as reviewing how their admissions policies could be adapted to address any inequalities. It is important to do this periodically, as intakes can see fluctuations year on year. Schools looking to become more socially diverse and inclusive should consider the following range of measures in relation to a) admissions policies and oversubscription criteria and b) the wider cost of schooling.

Reducing costs for parents

Reducing costs for parents

School leaders should ensure that wherever possible, they remove potential financial barriers to attendance at their school. Financial concerns are a significant factor for parents from low-income households when making school choices. Therefore, schools should look to reduce these costs wherever practically possible.

Unnecessary costs can include expensive uniforms, extensive equipment lists or expansive costs for trips or extra-curricular activities. On uniforms specifically, schools should commit to having no more than one branded item in their uniform, keeping total uniform costs under (or as near as possible to) £100 and ensuring second hand items are available for purchase or for free. Schools should also avoid collaborating with single uniform suppliers where possible, as this often increases the cost of uniforms.

Where costs on any of these items cannot be avoided, schools should look to give financial support to lower income families, and to clearly advertise the availability of this support on the admissions pages of their website and at open days.

Clear support for families

Clear support for families

Secondary and primary schools should collaborate to ensure that parents are well informed before making school choices, especially regarding their rights to free transport to school. For children eligible for FSM this extends to their three nearest suitable schools within six miles of their home, 15 miles for a faith school or up to 15 miles to their closest grammar school. Schools should ensure parents are aware of this support, and given information on how to access it, when making school choices.

Fair admissions policies

Fair admissions policies

  • Include pupil premium students in oversubscription priority criteria. The Schools Admissions Code currently allows for the use of pupil premium status as an oversubscription criterion, so more schools, particularly high performing schools, should move to implement this in order to create a more socially balanced intake and better reflect their local communities. This could for example mean giving pupil premium students priority up to the average proportion of those students in the local area, or up to a set level higher than this group’s proportion in the school’s current intake.
  • Ballots are where potential students are selected for admission using a lottery, meaning everyone entered for a place via the ballot has an equal chance of getting in. This could be done as a full ballot for all places or used only for a proportion of the school’s intake, such as ‘marginal lotteries’. This is where most school places could be allocated on the basis of existing criteria with a smaller proportion, say 20%, reserved for applicants outside the catchment allocated by lottery. The appropriate balance of ballot allocated places will depend on a school’s specific circumstances.
  • Banding tests are currently used by a number of schools. Pupils sit an entrance test, but rather than allocating places based on ability, places are allocated equally across all ability ‘bands’. This means a balance of abilities are admitted, which is likely to have a knock-on effect on the socio-economic profile of the school. Banding is most effective when there is cooperation between schools in an area, and where all children are entered for banding tests, with tests ideally being carried out in local primary schools. Groups of schools should thus be encouraged to develop a shared approach to admissions, possibly facilitated by a local authority or a local admissions forum.

What the data says

50%

The proportion of school leaders who think social segregation is a problem in state schools.

78%

The proportion of parents who believe schools should have a fairer mix of pupils from different backgrounds.

56%

The proportion of working class parents who say 'hidden costs' affect where they send their children to school.

£47,500

The 'housing premium' associated with buying a house in the catchment area of a top performing school.

Case studies

Fair admissions in action

Totteridge Academy

'Free school meals increase eligibility for places'

Change in Brighton & Hove

A grassroots campaign for change

Class Divide

Fairer School Admissions: Could you be the change?

The start of our campaign

Fair admissions in action

Reach Academy Feltham

Fair admissions in action

Eden Park High School