Schools accused of employing covert tactics to influence admissions

Some popular state schools are deliberately making themselves unaffordable to certain parents in a bid to deter children from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying for places.

Chris Waterman, executive director of the Confederation of Education and Children’s Services Managers, has accused some schools of choosing to recommend a more expensive uniform provider rather than the local supermarket in a bid to influence parents seeking a place.

Writing in a paper published this week by the Institute for Research in Integrated Studies, Waterman explains that other schools flag up the contribution parents are expected to make to school funds, the school’s extensive programme of residential visits and day trips, and other expectations such as all pupils owning a musical instrument and receiving private tuition.

“Add these elements together, which some schools unashamedly do, and it is all too apparent that education that is ‘free’ at the point of delivery can mean ‘quite expensive’ at the point of delivery,” he adds.

Waterman warns that there is “no evidence” that the admissions process will become any more equitable under the proposals set out in last month’s schools white paper.

Under the white paper, all community schools will be encouraged to become trust schools and set their own admission arrangements. Currently, community schools have no direct input into the admissions process other than through covert tactics.

Waterman predicts an even greater need to regulate the admissions process under the proposed reforms, warning that the whole system will become more complex and biased in favour of those able to “manage the system”.

“Few people share the government’s confidence… that the proposed changes will ‘allow more access to a greater variety of schools for all parents, including those from more deprived backgrounds’,” he concludes.

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