Institute for Public Policy Research warns academy and trust schools could deepen segregation

The government should reconsider its policy of giving increasing numbers of schools control over their admissions, to reduce segregation by social class and ability, left-leaning think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said today.

In a report School admissions: fair choice for parents and pupils, it said schools that controlled their admissions were using covert selection to choose more able and affluent pupils, harming educational outcomes for disadvantaged children.

For instance, it said faith schools that controlled their admissions were almost ten times more likely to have an unrepresentatively high concentration of high-achievers than those where councils set entry criteria.

Due to “peer group effects” – the positive impact of having high-achieving pupils in a classroom on their peers – this created an ever-widening attainment gap between own-admissions schools and those where councils retained control, the report concluded.

The government wants to create 400 academy schools across England and is pushing for other schools to become trusts. Under both models, schools control their admissions, a right also exercised by foundation and voluntary-aided schools, which currently make up one-third of secondary schools.

The government has also strengthened the admissions code of practice in a bid to curb covert selection. IPPR head of public services Richard Brooks said that unless the code “significantly reduces current levels of segregation”, councils should assume control of all admissions.

In the long-term, he said all admissions should be allocated by “fair banding” across localities, under which all schools receive a mixed intake of pupils by ability.

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