Disadvantaged children face extra disruption

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MORE disadvantaged children are switching schools mid-year, putting their education at risk, according to research that suggests that Yorkshire is one of the worst affected areas in the country outside London.

The study warns that such youngsters could fall “between the cracks” after being forced to start at new schools after moving homes or changed family circumstances.

The RSA, which conducted the study, said that “in-year” admissions could become more widespread as cuts to public spending and benefits mean more families are made to move to areas with lower rents.

The RSA’s figures show that pupils who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) – a key measure of poverty – are 40 per cent more likely to be admitted to a school “in year” than their peers.

This means that they are switching schools outside the times when schools usually take on new pupils, for example at ages five or 11. These youngsters are going to different schools because they are moving home, or changing family circumstances, the RSA says.

They say the figures suggest the numbers are increasing – the data shows that the rate of in-year admissions among poorer pupils has grown by 20 per cent since 2007/08, but has been falling for other youngsters.

The analysis, based on information from local councils, shows that overall the rate of in-year admissions in England has held steady over the last five years.

On average, England had 489 in-year admissions per 10,000 pupils in 2011/12.

However the levels in London are higher than the rest of the country.

Newham, in east London, had the highest rate at 878 pupils per 10,000, the RSA said, and Sunderland had the lowest at 295.

Primary age pupils are more likely to move schools mid-year than those at secondary school, while 30 per cent of in-year admissions happened in September, and 50 per cent in the autumn term.

Pupils in London, urban areas like Manchester, Leicester, Nottingham and Peterborough, as well as some coastal areas such as Blackpool, Hull and the Isle of Wight are more likely to move school in-year, the RSA said.

Hull has one of the highest numbers of pupils moving mid-year in the country with 602 for every 10,000 children.

Other areas in the region with large numbers of mid-year movers include North East Lincolnshire where the figure is 551, Doncaster where it is 527 and Bradford where it is 524.

Yorkshire’s average figure is higher than every region outside of London apart from the East of England.

Joe Hallgarten, the RSA’s director of education, said: “There’s a fear that vulnerable children are moving where it’s not unnecessary. When that happens, we need to make sure that happens fairly smoothly and quickly. Sometimes it happens very effectively, and sometimes it doesn’t.

“We need to make sure that these children do not fall between the cracks.”

He added: “Once the move actually happens, and the child is at a new school, then we need to make sure that they are supported so they are not put at a disadvantage in their learning.”

These children need to be attending the school that is most appropriate for them, he said.

“Given that it’s the most vulnerable children that are already at risk of under achievement, we need to take this issue seriously. With cuts to public spending and changes to housing benefit in particular, in-year admissions are set to become a more widespread phenomenon as children and families are forced to move to new areas with lower rents.

“Despite its potentially regressive impact and wide-ranging implications, the practice of in-year admissions has been largely under-explored.”