Children from poor backgrounds should have priority in school admissions and should be the main children to benefit when successful schools expand, says the Sutton Trust in its response to the Government’s proposals on changes to the admissions code. It does not think schools should give preference to children of their own teachers.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, which promotes social mobility through education, said: “Allowing schools to give preference to children from disadvantaged backgrounds is crucial if pupil premium funding is to operate truly as an incentive for schools to actively recruit children from poorer homes.”

“While we support good schools expanding, we are concerned that schools would tend to recruit more affluent students.

“A solution would be to make expansion conditional on giving first preference to all children eligible for free school meals before allowing other children to take up the extra places. This would ensure that successful schools which had the appetite to grow would recruit the pupils who would most benefit.”

The Trust says it would be wrong to allow schools, as suggested,  to give preferential places to children of their own teachers and other staff because this will provide a further disincentive to teachers with children, or planning to have children, to work in the most disadvantaged schools. “Our fear is that it will become even harder to attract the best teachers to the most challenging schools.”

The Trust disagrees with the Code’s proposal to ban local authorities from using ballots or ‘random allocation’ to decide which children should go to oversubscribed schools. It says: “Random allocation – when used in conjunction with other criteria – is a fair way of determining who gets school places.”

The Trust is also concerned that making the code simpler and briefer could also make it less fair. It says:  “A minority of admissions authorities which wish to admit a more socially exclusive intake will now have the latitude to do so, taking advantage of the gaps in the code.”

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