Children from poor families are only half as likely to get places in outstanding schools compared with their wealthier peers, according to new research published on the eve of national primary school offer day in England.
As 600,000 families in England wait to see if their children have gained a place at a school of their choice, the charity TeachFirst says those from disadvantaged families have fewer opportunities of being admitted to the top tier of state schools.
Only 15% of children from the poorest 30% of families currently attend a primary school rated as outstanding by Ofsted inspectors, compared with 27% of children from the richest 30% of families.
Eleven per cent of children from the poorest families attend a primary school rated as inadequate or requiring improvement, Ofsted’s two lowest tiers, compared with 6% of children from the richest households.
“These figures show that social mobility remains a serious issue in our country,” said Brett Wigdortz, the chief executive of TeachFirst.
“We know that all families care about giving their children the best possible start in life but, as outstanding schools are unfairly concentrated in richer communities, poorer families are finding themselves priced out.”
The researchers found that the difference in access worsened at secondary school level, where 24% of the poorest children go on to secondary schools rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, compared with 10% of children from wealthy families.
The figures come as government ministers argue that a “postcode lottery” is hampering social mobility, restricting access to the best schools to those who can afford house prices and rents in the most expensive areas.
Most primary schools in England use proximity as their main admissions criteria, meaning that access to the most popular can be restricted to a few hundred metres from the school gate in densely-populated areas.
Tuesday’s national offer day will reveal how many families have been able to gain their first preference for their child when local authorities announce the results of application for September 2017 entry.
About one in nine families did not receive a place at their first preference last year, with the issue more pronounced in London, where the figure was one in six.
The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said the statistics showed the government’s rhetoric on social mobility did not match reality. “Ministers’ failure to provide good schools in disadvantaged areas where they are needed is simply indefensible,” she said.
“Theresa May’s only answer to the social mobility crisis is her discredited policy of new grammar schools, which ignores the crucial early years of a child’s life and does nothing to ensure all children go to a good primary school.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said the government was committed to creating more places at successful schools, with more than 90% of new primary school places in 2015-16 being in good or outstanding schools.
“This has meant that last year 96.3% of parents in England received an offer at one of their top three preferred primary schools. But we know there is more to do to ensure every parent has access to a good schools’ place for their child,” the DfE said.
“We have already set out plans to make more good school places available – including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools.”
A report released on Monday by the National Union of Teachers said that many primary school children from poorer families went hungry during the holidays, according to evidence from staff.
Nearly 80% of the 600 primary teachers who responded to the NUT said they had experienced pupils returning from holidays showing signs of hunger. More than a third said they had noticed signs of malnourishment.