While middle-class parents are willing to increase the odds of their child getting into a top school by moving house, attending church or hiring private tutors, poorer parents find England’s admissions system too complex, a Barnardo’s study published today shows.
The study cites research which shows that children from poorer families are half as likely to get five good GCSE grades as their classmates.
But half of pupils entitled to free school meals – a measure of poverty – are concentrated in a quarter of secondary schools, while the top secondaries in the country take on average only five per cent of pupils entitled to them.
It says that Government plans to expand the numbers of academies and create “free schools” will mean that more schools will be acting as their own admissions authorities.
This needs to be matched by clearer accountability to ensure schools are taking a balanced intake of pupils, it says.
Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey said: “The school admissions system has become a complex game, one that many parents in poorer households are not aware is going on around them. Secondary school admissions fail to ensure a level playing field for all children.
“Instead we are seeing impenetrable clusters of privilege forming around the most popular schools.”