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Review advocates greater choice over schools for disadvantaged

28/01/2013 Joanna
More needs to be done to ensure that poorer children have access to the secondary teachers who can help them increase their attainment, a new report has argued.

David Boyle, a fellow of the New Economics Foundation think tank, was asked by the government to conduct a review into whether there were barriers to choice in public services - including education - for those from a disadvantaged background.

He found that while arrangements around school choice largely met people's needs, this was not always in the case, especially in some areas such as London and Kent.

Moreover, Mr Boyle found that disadvantaged pupils were often excluded from the best schools due to high house prices in catchment areas and because league tables provide incentives to schools not to take them.

The review also revealed that expansion seems to be taking place more quickly at poorer than at better schools, which are often reluctant to offer more places and lose the scale and atmosphere that they perceive as being central to their success.

Excessive bureaucracy, insufficient access to reliable information and lack of flexibility in the range of subjects available to pupils to study were highlighted by the review as well.

Mr Boyle therefore advised the government to devise and publish a parallel 'opportunity transformation' league table, which compares how schools have performed in achieving the best outcomes for free school meal children and narrowing the attainment gap.

Furthermore, he suggested trialling an annual online 'friends and family' test for schools that asks parents if they would recommend their child's school and why.

Thirdly, Mr Boyle asserted that pupils should be given the right to ask to study subjects which their school's curriculum arrangements currently make difficult.

He remarked: "What is clear is that people from all backgrounds want to have a choice in the services they receive, but they want a meaningful choice - which means they have the information and the advice they need and the confidence and authority to ask for flexibility in the way services are delivered."

Recent official figures indicate that 85 per cent of parents got their first choice of secondary school for their children in 2011, but that ranged from 95 per cent of parents in the north-east to only 68 per cent for London.

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-801529306-ADNFCR
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