Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on secondary school offer day.
“We would like to send our best wishes to all families receiving school offers today.
“The number of pupils in secondary schools has been rising in recent years and is expected to continue to do so through to 2025. It is therefore very likely that there will be more pressure on secondary school places this year and next. This pressure will be most keenly felt by schools that are already over-subscribed. In most cases these are schools located within affluent areas that have an outstanding or good Ofsted rating.
“There are well-known issues around people moving into catchment areas to get their child into these schools. This results in other families effectively being priced out and a review of the school admissions code is needed to explore how to provide better access to school places for disadvantaged children. This should examine the impact of requiring schools to prioritise all children eligible for the pupil premium, or in persistent poverty, in a similar way to how they already prioritise looked after and previously looked after children.
“However, the best way to tackle this inequality is to ensure that there are good school places available to all communities. Schools that are facing the biggest challenges must be given the support they need and Ofsted needs to work more closely with regional Department for Education teams to match issues identified during inspection with the help the school will receive. Consideration must also be given to the impact that negative graded Ofsted judgements, which make it more difficult for schools to attract staff and access certain funding streams, are having on a school’s ability to improve.”