School reforms could widen educational inequality

The government’s flagship school reforms programme of encouraging academy conversion and the opening of new free schools could act to widen educational inequality across the country, according to new analysis.

Analysis of government figures by SchoolDash has found that poorer pupils are under represented in secondary converter academies and primary free schools, even after taking into account the level of poverty in local areas.

It also found that more affluent families tend to live closer to good schools, with a family living next to a school rated 'Inadequate' by Ofsted is over 60 per cent more likely to be poor than one living next to an 'Outstanding' school.

However, even poorer pupils who do live close to high performing schools are less likely to end up going there, which leads SchoolDash to suggest that school selection ‘is an even bigger driver of social sorting than the locations of family homes’.

In addition to secondary converter academies and primary free schools, poorer pupils were also under represented in grammar schools, single sex secondary schools and faith schools.

While sponsor academies tended to have a higher proportion of poorer pupils, these figures raise concerns that if the government pushes forward with its focus on academies and free schools it could lead to increased educational inequality across the country and limit the life chances of children from poorer families.

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