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Secondary Schools in London: admissions criteria and cream skimming

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Academics from the Centre for Educational Research at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) have produced a report for the Research and Information on State Education Trust (RISE).

The report, Secondary Schools in London: admissions criteria and cream skimming by Anne West, Audrey Hind and Hazel Pennell at LSE, focuses on the admissions criteria used by London secondary schools and the extent to which the criteria allow the opportunity for cream skimming. It also provides some examples of ways in which individual admission authorities 'select in' or 'select out' particular types of pupils via these criteria and other admissions policies and practices.

The research found that:

  • A high proportion of secondary schools reported giving priority to siblings and to distance
  • Only a minority of secondary schools selected a proportion of pupils on the basis of ability/aptitude in a particular subject(s). More schools that were responsible for their own admissions (voluntary-aided and foundation) selected pupils on this basis
  • Just over one in ten secondary schools gave priority to the children of employees/governors; more schools responsible for their own admissions used such criteria.
  • One in ten secondary schools gave preference to the children of former pupils. Again, this was more common in schools responsible for their own admissions than those under the control of the local education authority.
  • Over seven out of ten secondary schools had an admissions criterion relating to the child's medical or social needs. However, more schools under the control of the local education authority used this as a criterion.
  • A significant minority of secondary schools' admissions criteria made reference to pupils with special educational needs. Again, these were predominantly schools under the control of the local education authority.
  • Overall, just over a quarter schools had admissions criteria related to religion; the vast majority of voluntary-aided schools had such criteria.
  • The most common admissions practice that could be considered potentially unfair is the use of interviews; this was used by almost half of the voluntary-aided secondary schools in London. Over a quarter of voluntary-aided schools interviewed parents as part of the admissions process.
  • Comparisons with admissions criteria used in secondary schools in the rest of England revealed that the opportunities for overt and covert selection are greater in London than in the rest of England.

The evidence suggests that clearer legislation and regulation is needed to prevent the continuation of policies and practices that are inequitable. The evidence reported here indicates that special attention needs to be directed towards making secondary school admissions in London more equitable, so that schools that are their own admission authorities have fewer opportunities to choose certain pupils at the expense of others.

Download a PDF of the report|

Ends

For more information, please contact Professor Anne West: tel: 020 7955 7269, email: a.west@lse.ac.uk| 

Notes:

Secondary Schools in London: admissions criteria and cream skimming was published in September 2003. The report follows on from research by Anne West and Audrey Hind, Secondary school admissions in England: exploring the extent of overt and covert selection. Details of this report, and a PDF available to download, can be found here|. This research has been carried out in collaboration with the Research and Information on State Education (RISE) Trust which was established to promote research and provide reliable information on state education.

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30 October 2003

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