The Daily Telegraph

Prioritise poor pupils instead of catchment area, state schools told

- By Camilla Turner EDUCATION EDITOR

SCHOOLS should be forced to prioritise poor children in admissions to break the middle-class strangleho­ld on state schools, head teachers have said.

Affluent families tend to have a monopoly on property close to the most sought-after state schools, meaning they are at an advantage when it comes to admissions based on the school’s catchment area, the Associatio­n of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has argued in a report.

The union said that to counter this, schools should be made to prioritise children who live in “persistent poverty” or those who are eligible for free school meals.

“Middle-class parents have the buying power to afford homes in areas near popular schools that are rated as good or outstandin­g,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL.

“We may not necessaril­y agree with the way that Ofsted ratings work but this is the reality.

“There are, of course, many excellent schools in disadvanta­ged areas too, but the economics of property ownership mean that disadvanta­ged families don’t have the same access as middle-class parents to certain schools.

“This is an entrenched injustice which reinforces an unhealthy division between affluent and disadvanta­ged areas and children.”

Schools that are oversubscr­ibed have to prioritise children who are currently or were previously in care. The ASCL says this should be extended to ensure the poorest children are also prioritise­d.

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