According to a new report, poorer children in England are less likely to attend high performing schools even if they are living next to them.
The study by SchoolDash says that poor pupils are under-represented at schools that are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted whilst a substantial proportion of children in England live in relative poverty.
It also cited a ‘house price’ effect on how children are assigned a school, and concluded that, “A family living next to a school rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted is over 60% more likely to be poor than one living next to an ‘Outstanding’ school.’” Despite this, it says, there are many other factors keeping poorer children out of good schools, with poorer children living close to a high-performing school still unlikely to attend it.
SchoolDash says that the consequences on education are pronounced:
“The data presented [in the report] suggest that school selection is an even bigger driver of social sorting than the locations of family homes.”
Meanwhile, the school types in which poorer pupils are most widely under-represented are Grammar schools, single-sex secondary schools, certain faith schools (particularly non-Christian and Roman Catholic schools), schools rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, secondary converter academies, and primary free schools.
Within the study, as reported by the BBC, is the suggestion that these types of schools often don’t reflect the proportion of poorer children in the areas immediately outside their gates.
The SchoolDash report also problematises maps of the UK showing the proportion of students eligible for free school meals, the standard measure of deprivation in British education. The blog report says that these maps can be misleading as the highest concentrations of poor children in England can be found covering relatively small areas in densely populated areas such as central London and other urban centres in the midlands and the north. This skewed perception can make it easy to be misled into thinking that child poverty is relatively rare, the study suggests.
The blog states that “a more realistic picture” is provided by ‘cartogram’ maps which rescale each area according to the number of children who go to school there. This map, the study says, shows that:
“A substantial proportion of children in England live in relative poverty.”
Meanwhile, SchoolWeek have reported that grammar schools and free schools may be exacerbating social segregation, focusing on the ratio of poorer children in good school areas compared to those that go to the schools.
The analysis shows that grammar schools, which are academically selective at age 11, are by far the most biased towards more affluent pupils, with SchoolWeek saying that this shows they aren’t quite the “engines of social mobility” some grammar school advocates say they are.
In an interview with the Guardian, free school advocate and founder Toby Young has backed calls for a universal admissions policy to tackle the problem.
The Telegraph, on the other hand, focused on the finding that working class parents often choose to send their children to underperforming schools even if they have a higher performing school nearer to their home. This, the study says, is the case when parents pick schools based on the criteria that people from a similar background are likely to attend.