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Access to high-performing schools 'is not geographically equal'

02/01/2018 Joanna

Students born in certain parts of the country are more likely to be able to attend the best schools than those living in less well-off locations, according to a new report.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has carried out an analysis of the density of high-quality secondary school places across England, comparing data from 2010 and 2015 to determine whether geographic access to the best-performing schools is improving.

Despite government policies aimed at improving school performance outside higher-performing areas such as London, it was found that access to the best schools in England actually became more geographically unequal over the period assessed.

Local authorities with consistently good access to high-performing secondary schools saw the proportion of pupils with access to these schools rise from 49 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2015. However, in regions with low densities of high-performing school places, the accessibility rate fell from six per cent to five per cent over the same period.

Virtually all of the local authority areas with consistently low access to the best school places were in the north of England, particularly the north-east and Yorkshire and the Humber. In Blackpool and Hartlepool, no high-performing secondary school places were identified, with one-fifth of areas in England having no top secondary schools within reasonable travel distance.

In response to these findings, the EPI has recommended that its Opportunity Area scheme - which targets certain regions for measures to improve social mobility - should be expanded to include at least one area in the north-east of England, as this region has virtually no high-performing schools at the moment.

EPI report authors Jon Andrews and Natalie Perera said: "Widening access to high performing schools is crucial if the government's policy objective of improving social mobility is to be met."

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