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School admissions appeal system worsens inequalities and increases social segregation, new report finds

The chances of parents getting a child into their first choice of school via the appeals process ‘varies considerably by family background, ethnicity, and pupil attainment at primary school,’ according to a new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for more inclusive school admissions policies that do not select pupils by religion – a practice which has also been shown to lead to segregation by ethnicity, socio-economic status, and prior attainment – has expressed alarm at the findings which show that, far from improving levels of fairness in the school admissions system, appeals and school waiting lists tend to exacerbate existing inequalities.

The report found just 10% of Black pupils and 12% of Asian pupils secure a place at their first preference school through appeals and waiting lists compared to 21% of White British pupils. Disadvantaged pupils (in receipt of the pupil premium) and lower attaining pupils are also more likely to miss out on first-choice places through this route.

Parents who have applied to a Roman Catholic school are more likely to be successful in securing a place through the appeals process, although there is nothing in the report to suggest that this tendency bucks the overall trend for places allocated via appeal to go to better off, higher attaining pupils who are less likely to come from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Earlier this week, Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner tabled a parliamentary question asking the Education Secretary Damian Hinds ‘what steps he [had] taken to conduct a review of school admissions policy; and what plans he has to do so in future.’ The request for a review also features in the EPI report and echoes similar calls made by Humanists UK, Comprehensive Future and others for the Education Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into the issue.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented: ‘The school admissions code legally permits religious selection which has been robustly proven to divide pupils, not only by faith or belief, but along ethnic and socio-economic lines, as well as by attainment. Partly this happens because highly educated, socially advantaged parents are better equipped to navigate the system, ensuring they secure the school of their choice while others miss out. This is why it is so alarming that the  appeals process actually worsens existing inequalities and increases social segregation.

‘Humanists UK believe that all children have the right to attend a good, fully inclusive school which does not unfairly privilege children from particular backgrounds. That is why we urge the Government to urgently review school admissions to ensure that every child is treated equally.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

To read our most recent news item on 100% religiously selective new VA schools, visit: https://humanism.org.uk/2019/03/26/catholic-cofe-muslim-jewish-and-hindu-groups-apply-for-new-100-selective-schools/ 

For more information about our faith schools campaign work, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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