Research into Conservative-led Brighton and Hove Council’s lottery system for allocating places to over-subscribed schools has supposedly found that it “failed in one of its key aims – to give poorer children equal access to top schools“.

However, as the scheme has only been in operation for two years, it is hard to see how the scheme can have had a huge impact and the findings seem seriously premature: behavioural changes in terms of how parents respond to the secondary schools allocation system are likely to take more than two years to work through as parents will first need to see how the system has worked in practice and then devise “rational” responses to it.

More significantly, it looks as though the research was setting an unrealistic target for the scheme as its conclusion is that the system does not give equal chances to all pupils because catchment areas are still the main determinants of access to particular schools.  The scheme only applied to over-subscribed schools.  Therefore, while it would have some impact on disadvantage, the scheme remained essentially catchment-based and it could never have achieved an objective of completely equal chances.  So why use that as the measure?

The Brighton experiment still needs to be properly assessed.  This research tells us very little.

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