An upsurge of new free schools and academies has been followed by an increase in school admissions based on the intake of a mixed range of ability groups.
There has been a rise in the number of schools using the banding process – an admissions process which accepts a range of pupils from all ability groups – which has increased from 95 to 121 in the last four years.
Counsellor Rita Krishna, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services at Hackney Council, said: “We’ve been using banding across Hackney schools for a number of years, and it currently operates across ten schools, including six academies and a free school.
"We find it’s an effective method of ensuring that schools take children across the ability spectrum and in Hackney we’ve found that contributes to better results for all.”
The number of schools using a randomised admissions process is also on the up, with 42 schools using ballots in 2012-13. The rise could be partly explained by the introduction of free schools and academies, since they have greater autonomy and therefore more control over their own admissions policies.
17 per cent of sponsored schools use a banding and/or a balloting system to generate their admissions, compared to only 5 per cent of ordinary comprehensives.
Most schools currently allocate places on the basis of distance to the school and whether a student has a sibling in attendance already.
The Sutton Trust, a foundation encouraging social mobility through education, believe that more schools should be encouraged to use banding and/or balloting to ensure that children do not automatically benefit from the good fortune of living close to a school.
Last year, the trust revealed that schools with the best GCSE results in the nation took in half the number of children eligible for free school meals than expected by the national average.
Conor Ryan, Director of Research and Communications at the Sutton Trust, said: “Access to the most popular comprehensives should not be limited to those who can afford to pay a premium on their mortgages or rents. A common fear of such approaches is that children living next door to a school may not get admitted.
"It is possible to address such concerns by using an inner and outer catchment area, with those living closest to the school in the inner area, but access opened to a wider group of parents in the outer catchment. This is an approach taken by some schools and academies already.”
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