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Some schools are overtly and covertly selecting pupils, according to new LSE research

The extent of overt and covert selection practices in English secondary schools has been analysed by LSE academic Professor Anne West.

Her research was conducted with the Research and Information on State Education (RISE) Trust, and presented at the TEN/RISE conference on Monday 3 February.

Professor West, director of the Centre for Educational Research at LSE, and CER researcher Audrey Hind, created a database of 95 per cent of state-maintained secondary schools in England and recorded over-subscription criteria on a school-by-school basis. Their key findings were that:

  • Some admissions criteria were clear, fair and objective, particularly those of community schools, which comprise the majority of secondary schools in England.
  • However, in a significant minority of schools, notably those that are their own admission authorities - voluntary-aided and foundation schools - a variety of criteria were used which appear to be designed to select certain groups of pupils and so exclude others. These include children of employees; children of former pupils; partial selection by ability/aptitude in a subject area or by general ability; and children with a family connection to the school.

They found that specialist schools were more likely than non-specialist schools to report selecting a proportion of pupils on the basis of aptitude/ability in a particular subject area (5.9 per cent versus 1.7 per cent). However, voluntary-aided/foundation schools were far more likely to select on this basis than community/voluntary-controlled schools (8.8 per cent versus 0.3 per cent). The issue of partial selection by aptitude/ability is less a function of specialist school status and more a function of whether schools are their own admission authority.

Dr West said: 'It is noteworthy that criteria giving priority to children with medical or social needs were given for nearly three-quarters of schools; however, community/voluntary controlled schools were far more likely to include this as a criterion than voluntary-aided/foundation schools. Similarly, nearly two-fifths of schools mentioned as an over subscription criterion, pupils with special educational needs. Again, these were predominantly community/voluntary-controlled schools as opposed to voluntary-aided/foundation schools.'


View the report at http://www.risetrust.org.uk/admissions.html| 

Contact: Professor Anne West, Centre for Educational Research, LSE, on 020 7955 7269, email: a.west@lse.ac.uk|

Updated 2 May 2003