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03.06.13

Top schools exercising ‘social selection’ – Sutton Trust

State-funded secondary schools are becoming more socially exclusive, new research by the Sutton Trust indicates. One in six of these schools has greater exclusivity than local state schools and the national average.

The Sutton Trust is calling for new admission procedures to rectify this, by using lotteries or mixed levels of ability to achieve a balanced intake, instead of admission based on proximity.

The top 500 state-funded schools teach fewer than half the national average proportion of children eligible for free school meals – a factor commonly linked with parents receiving benefits.

The state-funded schools teach 7.6% of children receiving free meals, compared with 16.5% in 3,000 state secondary schools in England.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Who gets admitted to these schools matters because they are the ones most likely to attend the best universities and most likely to succeed in the top professions. These schools open the door to social mobility. Yet, the bottom line is that how good a school you go to depends on your parents' income.

“Many of the schools in this study are not using forms of overt selection. But they are exercising a form of social selection.

“There is a tension between fair admissions and setting catchment areas entirely defined by proximity to a school. The two are not always synonymous.”

But a spokesperson from DfE said: “Schools must abide by the admissions code and are prohibited from deliberately selecting children from more advantaged backgrounds.”

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