Nearly half of parents (47%) would support making random allocation or ballots a part of school admissions rather than only prioritising how close parents live to a school, according to a new YouGov poll for the Sutton Trust today, published to coincide with the Trust’s new Mobility Manifesto.

Given the scenario of a popular comprehensive academy with 100 places and 400 applicants, the poll of 1169 parents across Britain (obtained from an overall general sample of British respondents) showed that 28% of parents thought all the places should be allocated by a ballot or randomly, 41% thought places should go to those living nearest the academy and 19% thought that half the places should be allocated by ballot and half by distance. In total 47% believed that ballots should play a part in the oversubscribed school’s admissions.

The Trust is urging fairer admissions to comprehensives, grammar schools and independent schools as part of a 10-point Mobility Manifesto setting out ten practical policy steps designed to put social mobility at the heart of the 2015 election campaign,published today ahead of the party conferences.

The manifesto urges greater use of ballots (random allocation) or ability banding for fairer admissions, particularly in urban schools that are oversubscribed.  It also says that all schools should be encouraged to use the powers in the revised admissions code to give priority to pupils entitled to the pupil premium.

The manifesto also urges politicians to back the Sutton Trust’s Open Access proposals, which would open up 100 independent day schools on the basis of ability rather than ability to pay, with the government funding places in Open Access schools on the same basis as other state-funded schools.

The YouGov poll shows that 41% of parents agree that all children should have the opportunity to go to private school, regardless of family income, and at the Government or taxpayer’s expense, while 29% disagree.

The manifesto also calls for a significant increase in good quality apprenticeships for young people, ring-fenced funding to support the most able state school pupils and pupil premium cash incentives for schools to narrow the attainment gap between their richest and poorest students.

Dr Lee Elliot Major, Sutton Trust Director of Policy and Development, said today: “There is a clear recognition in all the main political parties that we need to do a lot more to improve social mobility in Britain. Our ten point manifesto gives them the ideas that will turn the rhetoric into radical change for the better.

“Fairer admissions and fairer access must be at the heart of any programme to improve social mobility. Our poll shows a public appetite for change in oversubscribed comprehensives and academies. We need changes too to ensure fair access to grammar schools, independent schools and elite universities.

“And we need action at every stage of a young person’s development from well qualified nursery workers through better use of the pupil premium to many more decent apprenticeships if we are to give every young person the chance to use their talents effectively.”

The recommendations come against the backdrop of stark differences in the life chances of those from poor families compared to rich ones.

  •  At age five there is already a 19 month gap in school readiness between the richest and poorest children.
  • A young person from the richest fifth of neighbourhoods is ten times more likely to go to a Russell Group university than a child from the poorest fifth.
  • These disparities continue into adulthood with only the US faring worse than the UK among developed countries in the extent to which an individual’s income is determined by that of their parents.

Tackling the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers is central to improving mobility too, and the Sutton Trust’s sister charity the Education Endowment Foundation is helping put research on what works at the heart of school improvement. Government figures show that the gap in attainment between disadvantaged and other pupils at age 11 remained at 19 percentage points in 2013 (down two percentage points from 2010) and 27 percentage points at GCSE level (a fall of less than one percentage point from 2010). To reduce the attainment gap the Mobility Manifesto recommends:

  • Extending pupil premium payments so schools that successfully and consistently improve results for all while narrowing the attainment gap are properly rewarded.
  • OFSTED inspect schools use of evidence to promote the effective use of pupil premium funding.
  • Recognising the impact good teaching has on the least advantaged students by giving every teacher a clear entitlement to effective professional development.
  • Ensuring all staff working with disadvantaged two year olds are qualified to at least Level 3 (A-level standard).

The Manifesto also recommends a national programme to support the most able learners in maintained schools and academies, backed by ring-fenced Government funding. Other recommendations from the manifesto include:

  •  A radical expansion of three-year apprenticeships at level 3 or above, with a strong focus on young apprentices. An extra 150-200,000 level 3 starts are needed each year.
  • Giving working class parents means tested vouchers that can be spent on extra tuition, books and cultural activities for their children.
  • Offering all pupils a guaranteed level of careers advice from dedicated professionals and allowing OFSTED to inspect schools on their provision.

The Trust will be organising fringe meetings at the three main party conferences in partnership with the Social Market Foundation to discuss ideas from the manifesto.

  •  Monday 22 September, 12.30-14.00, Manchester Central  Convention Complex, Room 9

The Early Years Conundrum – achieving quality for all Speakers include: Lucy Powell MP (Shadow Education Minister) and Naomi Eisenstadt CB (Education Research Fellow, University of Oxford)

  • Monday 29 September, 12.30-14.00, ICC Executive Room 7, Birmingham

Bridging the independent and state school divide Speakers include: Graham Brady MP (Chair, 1922 Committee) and Mary Riddell (Daily Telegraph).

  • Tuesday 7 October, 09.30-10.30, Crowne Plaza SECC Barra Room, Glasgow

Has the Coalition given universities a strong foundation for the future? Speakers include: Rt Hon Vince Cable MP (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) and Nick Hillman (Higher Education Policy Institute) NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 150 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education grant of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement through evidence-based research. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £41 million to 78 projects working with over 560,000 pupils in over 2,900 schools across England.
  3. YouGov questioned a representative sample of 6,185 adults across Great Britain of which 1,169 were parents of school aged children (aged 5-18) between 26th and 29th August 2014. See below for full tables. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  4. An independent assessment of the Trust’s Open Access scheme by the Social Market Foundation found that rolling out the scheme across 100 leading independent schools, covering 62,000 pupils, would cost the government around £215 million per year. It also found selection based on merit, rather than ability to pay fees, significantly alter the social composition of those schools, more than doubling the proportion of children from the bottom 40 per cent of household incomes.


Please consider the following scenario. A popular comprehensive academy has 100 places on offer, but 400 families have applied for these places. All of the families live within 2 miles of the school. The school currently first gives places to children with special educational needs and those with a brother or sister already at the school. Which one of the following do you think is the fairest way of deciding which children obtain the remaining places at this school?
Use a ballot or random allocation of school places to allow everyone to have an equal chance 28
Allocate places only to those living within a certain distance to the academy 41
Allocate half the places by ballot and half to those living within a certain distance to the academy 19
Don’t know 12
YouGov Survey. Sample Size: 6185 GB adults of which 1169 were parents of school aged children (aged 5-18)
Fieldwork: 26th – 29th August 2014


How far do you agree or disagree that all children should have the opportunity to go to private school, regardless of their family’s income, and at the Government’s or taxpayer’s expense?
Strongly agree 17
Agree 24
Neither agree nor disagree 24
Disagree 16
Strongly disagree 13
Don’t know 7
YouGov Survey. Sample Size: 6185 GB adults of which 1169 were parents of school aged children (aged 5-18)
Fieldwork: 26th – 29th August 2014

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