Poorest families half as likely to get top choice of school through appeals system, study finds

Children from the poorest families are half as likely to get into their top choice of secondary school through the appeals system, as the requirement for written statements can be a barrier to parents, a study has found. The Independent reports.

Parents in the most affluent areas have a much better chance of securing their preferred school through the appeals and waiting list system, according to think tank Education Policy Institute.

Poorer families with lower literacy or English as an additional language could be disadvantaged by the appeals system as they have to provide a written statement outlining parents’ reasons for appeal.

The study also reveals that only one in 10 black students and 12 per cent of Asian pupils get their first choice through the process, compared with 21 per cent of white British pupils.

Around 86,000 families in England were not offered their first-choice school in 2016-17. Of these, around one in seven (13,000) successfully appealed or used waiting lists to secure their top choice.

The research comes at a time when the choices that parents face are “increasingly complex” as the majority of secondary schools are now academies, which act as their own admission authorities, the study says.

Emily Hunt, senior researcher at EPI, said: “If you are a family from the very poorest neighbourhood, then your odds of securing your top choice of school by appealing or using waiting lists is half that of a family from the most affluent neighbourhood.

“This is particularly concerning as parents use these routes to access schools with higher Ofsted ratings, and these schools also have socially advantaged intakes.”

Ms Hunt added: “With a population bulge hitting secondary schools, increasing pupil numbers by around 15 per cent over the next decade, we may see growing pressures on capacity in the school system. 

“As a result of increased competition for school places among parents, we may see inequalities in the current appeals and waiting list system becoming further ingrained”. 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, warned that the issue was not “going away” as the proportion of first preference offers dropped last year, meaning just over 104,000 young people did not get what they wanted. 

Read the full article Poorest families half as likely to get top choice of school through appeals system, study finds

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