Poorer children less likely to get top choice through appeals system

New research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) examines the school appeals and waiting lists system in England.

The report is the first, detailed, analysis of the secondary school appeals and waiting lists system. It finds that thousands of parents in England appeal or use waiting lists each year in order to access their preferred school.

Out of the half a million (545,000) total school offers in 2016/17, around 459,000 (84 per cent) of these were offers to parents for their top choice of school. Around 86,000 offers were made to parents that were not their first choice of school. Of those families that were not offered their top choice of school, one in seven (13,000) families successfully appealed or used waiting lists to secure their top choice of school. Meanwhile one in five families (16,000) were successful in using these routes to secure any school that was higher on their list than the one they were originally offered.

The report finds that the likelihood of getting into a first choice school through the appeals and waiting lists system varies considerably by family background, ethnicity, and pupil attainment at primary school.

For pupils in the least deprived areas, the odds of securing a first choice school through the appeals and waiting lists system are twice as high as those living in the most deprived areas.

Black and Asian pupils are less likely to get a place in their top choice of school through the appeals and waiting lists system than White British and Chinese pupils. Just 10 per cent of Black pupils and 12 per cent of Asian pupils get their first choice through this route, compared to 21 per cent of White British pupils and 17 per cent of Chinese pupils.

Disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for the Pupil Premium) are also more likely to miss out on their first choice through appeals and waiting lists, compared to non-disadvantaged pupils (13 vs 18 per cent).
Those with low attainment at the end of primary are less likely to access their first choice of secondary school after using these routes than those with high attainment (15 vs 23 per cent).

The report recommends that the government should deliver on its promise to review the school admissions system, which should include a detailed evaluation of how school appeals and waiting lists are used. If it wishes to address inequalities in school access, and reduce socio-economic gaps, then such a review is imperative.

Parents should have better information to navigate the admissions and appeals process. All families have the right to use the appeals and waiting lists system, though it is unclear whether all parents are aware of this. Parents should also be encouraged to use all their available preferences when applying to schools.
Support should be in place to ensure a level playing field for parents when appealing for a school place: the requirement to produce a written statement may be a barrier to some parents.


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