Academy schools unfairly targeting privileged kids

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Academy schools are flouting admission rules to select pupils from more privileged families, according to a major study of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove's flagship programme.

The report, by the Academies Commission, says that it has received "numerous submissions" stating that academies are finding methods to "select covertly" – and warns this could lead to increased social segregation.

These include arranging "social" events for prospective parents to get round a ban on direct interviews with parents set out in the Government's admissions code.

The Commission, headed by former chief schools inspector Christine Gilbert, says it was told of examples of academies "willing to take a 'low road' approach to school improvement by manipulating admissions."

Stephen Twigg, Labour's education spokesman, said the report showed the school system was becoming "chaotic, impacting on standards and fairness".

The report says that the dramatic rise in the number of academies – from 203 to 2,456 since the Coalition Government came to power – does not necessarily represent a "panacea for school improvement".

The Commission warns that many schools that converted to academy status under the Coalition are not fulfilling commitments they gave towards helping other schools to improve. "The evidence... suggests relatively few have taken on the supportive roles expected," it adds.

It also says evidence "suggests that many previously poorly performing schools in disadvantaged areas (that stayed with their local authorities) have done just as well as those which embarked on the academy route".

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "All admissions authorities – be they local councils or self-governing schools including academies – must comply with our new fair Admissions Code."