IPPR have produced a very thoughtful and timely piece of research on the academy programme that deserves a wider circulation and readership. The report makes the point that schools that control their own admissions are much more likely to be highly unrepresentative of their local areas than schools whose admissions are controlled by the local authority. It shows that this is bad for overall standards because low-attaining pupils benefit far more from a mixed ability environment than high attaining pupils benefit from being segregated into ‘elite’ schools. The report therefore suggests:
- No state school should administer its own admissions process – there should be an independent admission administrator in every local authority. Unless the new Admissions Code results in significant reductions in segregation, schools should cease to be their own admission authorities and local authorities should take over this role instead.
Fair banding by ability should be used as an oversubscription criterion for all schools, and in the longer term should apply not just to the applicants to each school but across wider local areas too.
Faith schools should be included in such banding arrangements, but could give priority to applicants on the basis of faith within each ability band.
Local Admission Forums should be required to produce a regular report on levels of segregation by income and ability in their local schools. The recent Education and Inspections Act gave local authorities the ‘power’ to produce this report but they are not obliged to do so.