Parents increasingly coming round to the idea of ballots for school places


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The Independent Online

A growing number of parents support the idea of ballots to determine which children are successful in applying to oversubscribed schools, according to a new poll published today.

The poll of 1,129 parents by YouGov for the education charity the Sutton Trust showed nearly half backed the idea of ballots for schools - with 28 per cent believing a ballot should be introduced for all places while 19 per cent believed the allocation should be split between ballots and proximity to the school.

The charity, which campaigns for equal access to education for all, is now intending to raise the issue with ministers as part of a 10-point charter to improve social mobility.

The figures show increasing support for ballots, compared with an earlier poll for the Trust seven years ago, when 32 per cent of parents backed the idea.

One reason parents may favour ballots is that deciding on admissions through proximity to the school gives richer families a better chance of getting into oversubscribed top-performing schools. Research published yesterday claims that they are prepared to pay up to £50,000 extra to purchase a house nearer a top school.

Dr Lee Elliot Major, director of policy and development at the Sutton Trust, said: “Fairer admissions and fairer access must be at the hearts of any programme to improve social mobility. Our poll shows an appetite for change in oversubscribed comprehensives and academies.”

However, Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, argued: “While allocating places by ballot may seem fairer, it will make admissions to oversubscribed schools even more complex and is likely to lead to parents who are unsuccessful feeling their child is attending a ‘second best’ school.”