Top-rated schools in England are pushing up house prices in local catchment areas, making them more “socially selective”, according to a new report.
Hundreds of thousands of children will today learn which secondary school they will attend. Last year one in six children failed to get a place in their first choice.
Educational charity The Sutton Trust has found that the top 500 comprehensives for GCSE grades in England are significantly more socially selective than the average state school, taking around half the proportion of disadvantaged pupils.
The report also says that living in a catchment area of a top comprehensive school is associated with an increase in house prices of 20% – around £45,000.
Chairman of The Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl, told Sky News the way local authorities allocate school places should change.
The charity wants a move away from catchment-area selection to a ballot.
He said: “Instead of all the kids in a catchment area going to the good school, we’re saying lets have half the kids go to the school from the catchment area and lets have half the kids coming from outside the catchment area, so that gives kids from low and moderate income areas a chance.”
But the idea is being dismissed by some.
Simon Elliott is the head-teacher of Forest Gate Community School in Newham, one of the poorest boroughs in London.
He said: “A ballot is a great idea in principal. But the trade-off is you get people living literally next door to a school and they can’t access it. I think the solution is to try to make every school a good school and raise the bar that way.”
Forest Gate Community School was Ofsted rated as “requires improvement”, but over the last five years has reached “outstanding” status.
It puts its success down to a change in culture, mentoring and weekend and evening classes for students.
Ofsted data produced by the Teach First charity shows poorer children are half as likely as their wealthier peers to attend a secondary school rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted.
Part of the problem is encouraging top teachers to locate to schools in poorer areas.
The Department for Education told Sky News there are now 1.8 million more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and that it is working to create 600-thousand new school places by 2012.
A spokesman said: “Selection by house price is simply unfair, which is why we’ve already set in motion plans to tackle it.
“We plan to create more good school places in more parts of the country by scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, as well as harnessing the expertise and resources of our universities, and our independent and faith schools.
“This will build on the work of the last six years that has seen the number of children being taught in schools that are rated good or outstanding rise by almost 1.8 million – but we want to go further.
“We have announced 12 Opportunity Areas across England, backed with £72m investment, where we are working to break down the barriers to social mobility that too many still face.”