Selective view of access

Education secretary Ruth Kelly maintains she is committed to a fair admissions system for all pupils and she is adamant that the government’s reforms will not adversely affect disadvantaged children.

In her informal response to the education and skills select committee chair she said the education white paper could be revised to ensure that schools would not select on academic ability.

But rather than agreeing with the select committee’s shrewd recommendation that local authorities be given a new duty to monitor school admissions arrangements, she argued that the best way to achieve fair access is to give existing admission forums increased powers.

It is questionable whether these powers will see an end to schools turning away pupils they fear will mess up their position in the league tables. Meanwhile, the increasing exclusion of local authorities from educational decisions in their areas risks losing a coherent overview.

More than seven out of 10 children receiving free school meals fail to achieve five or more good GCSEs. The national average for looked-after children achieving GCSE grades A-C is 9 per cent. In one London borough, Merton, where the council has achieved great GCSE results for looked-after children, there is a central admissions policy so all its schools have the same criteria for accepting pupils; and this criteria prioritises children in care.

The government needs to look at those areas that are ensuring fair access for all and replicate what they are doing nationwide.

See Kelly’s new stance

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