Published on 10 Jan 2013

Cheese and wine anyone? How academies are screening potential pupils

Forget crossing your fingers and hoping for the best when it comes to getting your child into that brilliant academy down the road: make sure you don’t miss the nice little social event it organises for prospective parents.

News today that academies have been getting around the strict code on admissions with a bit of “game-playing” may not surprise, but does depress a little.

The report, Unleashing Greatness, by the Academies Commission, says some academies have been using “covert selection” procedures.

Schools aren’t allowed to interview prospective parents, so what better than to invite them for a chat over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to get a good look at the sort of families you might be inviting into the school fold.

The report suggests some academies are finding ways of eliciting more information on parents than permitted by the code.

Every little helps when you’re trying to get the right pupils to make sure the school gets the right results.

When academy schools were first introduced by Tony Blair his vision was clear: transforming education for the most disadvantaged. Poor performing schools given freedom – and often huge amounts of money – to transform the lives of children being “let down” by the education system.

Read more: Academies ‘covertly select’ privileged pupils

One argument is that the schools which have done well become so popular that some form of secret selection becomes an inevitable consequence.

The commission now wants academies to publish socio-economic data about who applies and who is offered a place.

And just in the interests of balance, let me say many schools outside the academy family aren’t covered in glory either.

They may stick to the selection process rigidly, but all the evidence about how inadequate education can be for some of the poorest children in society shows they’re not managing to level the playing field either.

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3 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    That phrase “the right pupils” says it all don’t you think?

    Perhaps it would be more appropriate to reintroduce “the undeserving poor.”

    Few elements are colder or more destructive in any society than lower middle class petty snobberies. And that is all the academy system will reinforce – in fact all it is intended to reinforce.

    The social results will be all too evident when the first academy generation are out in the real world. Say in about the next 10-20 years.

    The system carries the seeds of its own destruction.

  2. Philip says:

    I thought academies were designed primarily to give aid and comfort to middle class tory-voting families. After all, does this government really care about other folks’ children who will be minimum wage fodder in the service industry or unemployed “shirkers”? Why would you need to educate such oiks anyway?

  3. Barbara Stevens says:

    At the moment the education emperor has no clothes. The league tables and tick box system are just as broken in the education system as they are in the health system. Managers seem to have lost sight of the humanity of the children and teachers in the system. If our concern is just social mobility, then we miss the point, and education continues to go down the pan, for all.

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