Benefit caps and changes to welfare payments could lead to more poor children being disadvantaged by having to change schools, it emerged last week.
A study from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found that mid-year admissions were rising as families were being forced to move to areas with lower rents.
The findings came last week as half a million youngsters were awaiting National Offer Day, on Friday, to find out if they had secured a place at the secondary school of their choice for this September.
The report warned that disadvantaged children may “fall through the cracks” with their chances of success declining further because of the disruption caused to their education.
The RSA’s analysis of school census data for England suggests pupils on free school meals are
40 per cent more likely than better-off children to be admitted to a school during the school year, as opposed to early in September when the school year starts.
On average, England had 489 in-year admissions per 10,000 pupils in 2011/12. Newham, in east London, had the highest rate at 878 pupils per 10,000 and Sunderland the lowest at 295, said the RSA.
Joe Hallgarten, the RSA’s director of education, said: “Once the move actually happens, and the child is at a new school, then we need to make sure they are supported so they are not put at a disadvantage in their learning.
“Given that it’s the most vulnerable children that are already at risk of underachievement, we need to take this issue seriously.”
The figures are part of an on-going RSA study into the effect of mid-year admissions on vulnerable children. The full findings will be published later this year.
Meanwhile, a separate survey carried out by the Daily Telegraph, found that pupils in large cities and those living where there was an existing system of grammar schools were least likely to get a place in their first-choice school.
In some areas almost half of pupils were rejected from their preferred school, but this varied hugely around the country. However, it was expected that more children would be accepted by their first choice school this year, compared with last year when one in 20 were rejected from three institutions.
Last week ministers announced a £4 billion building programme over the next two years to expand, upgrade and create new schools in areas with greatest need to try to alleviate the annual problems with school places (see article, left).
According to the Department for Education, more than a fifth – 21 per cent – of secondary schools are currently full or operating beyond capacity.
A DfE spokesman said: “Every parent should have the choice of a good school for their child. We are turning around under-performing schools by allowing outstanding sponsors to lead them and we are allowing good schools to expand and offer more places.”