Children from “poorest backgrounds” to be prioritised for places in state-funded schools

Children from “poorest backgrounds” to be prioritised for places in state-funded schools

A new draft admissions proposal, currently in government consultation, would see priority given to pupils eligible for free school meals and the pupil premium.

The announcement to prioritise the admission of children from disadvantaged backgrounds came from former education secretary Michael Gove back in 2010. Gove said: “What we wanted to do is see how we could give priority in admissions to children from poorer homes. If there are academy sponsors who especially want to target poorer children […] then we’re allowing those schools to say, ‘We would like to give preference to a set number of children eligible for free school meals.'”

Academies and free schools can currently discriminate in favour of children from poorer backgrounds who are eligible for the pupil premium, yet state schools (including grammar) must apply to the Department for Education for permission to do so.

While the DfE go ahead with its planned £200m cuts to next year’s education services grant, some believe that schools will prioritise poorer children in order to be eligible for the pupils premium. This could cause stiffer competition for wealthier families to find places for their children in the school of their choice.

Studies and investigations have found that wealthier families are willing to move house, attend church and break the rules in order for their children to be educated in their chosen school.

Poorer families, with less resources, financial help and knowledge are unable to make the leaps necessary to get into some well sought-after schools.

The new proposal suggests that in 2014/15 financial year, the pupil premium will be:

£1,300 per primary pupil
  • £935 per secondary pupil
  • The consultation says: “These changes are consistent with the government’s social-mobility agenda and will allow schools the opportunity to support the least advantaged in society in a practical way.