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Government 'may reform school admissions to improve social mobility'

13/01/2017 Joanna

The government may introduce a number of changes to the current system of school admissions in order to enhance social mobility standards, according to a new report.

TES has reported that Department for Education officials are currently seeking the views of academics and thinktanks on changes to the way that children are currently admitted to schools, responding to concerns that this system has become progressively more complex.

Handing oversight of admissions back to local authorities - rather than allowing schools that have converted into academies to handle this matter unilaterally - could be among the proposals under consideration, due to the change in government personnel since the last time this idea was floated.

Other new options to revamp the admissions system that are up for discussion include random ballots, devising catchment areas to ensure schools have a good demographic spread, and the introduction of a banding system, whereby pupils are placed in different categories of ability to help drive a more comprehensive intake.

Currently, wealthier families are able to afford more expensive homes near to top-performing schools, meaning distance has become an important factor causing higher-end schools to admit fewer pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Anna Vignoles, professor of education at Cambridge University, supported the idea of changing this system, but noted: "Parents whose children do not get whichever school they perceive as their best school will remonstrate, and if you suddenly announce that proximity to a good school has no bearing on access, that's likely to lead to changes in house prices, and that will affect non-parents, and that would have to be carefully handled."

Recent studies have shown that geographical location and demographic background continue to have a significant bearing on a pupil's likelihood of achieving the best grades - a trend that prime minister Theresa May has repeatedly pledged to address.

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