Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
School admissions and accountability

School admissions and accountability: Planning, choice or chance?

Mike Feintuck
Roz Stevens
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    School admissions and accountability
    Book Description:

    The processes for allocating places at secondary schools in England are perennially controversial. Providing integrated coverage of the policy, practice and outcomes from 1944 to 2012, this book addresses the issues relevant to school admissions arising from three different approaches adopted in this period: planning via local authorities, quasi-market mechanisms, and random allocation. Each approach is assessed on its own terms, but constitutional and legal analysis is also utilised to reflect on the extent to which each meets expectations and values associated with schooling, especially democratic expectations associated with citizenship. Repeated failure to identify and pursue specific values for schooling, and hence admissions, can be found to underlie questions regarding the ‘fairness’ of the process, while also limiting the potential utility of judicial responses to legal actions relating to school admissions. The book adopts an interdisciplinary approach which makes it relevant and accessible to a wide readership in education, social policy and socio-legal studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0624-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
    Mike Feintuck and Roz Stevens
  2. ONE The admissions question
    (pp. 1-20)

    Schooling is crucial, in its accreditation function, as a means of accessing employment and in its other tangible and intangible benefits for the individual and society. The path of our future life will be heavily determined by the quality of education we receive as children. Therefore, understanding the way that families access secondary schools for their children and the effectiveness (or not) of the school admissions systems and safeguards that the state puts in place is of profound importance. The significance of schooling is recognised explicitly in the Universal Declaration of Rights – the United Nations’ ‘common standard of achievement for...

  3. TWO The changing policy context
    (pp. 21-52)

    By tracing the history of themes and variations within reform of the school system over the last 60 years it is possible to shed some light on the underlying tensions which bear upon the current construct of ‘the admissions question’. The essential position adopted here is that issues relating to school admissions must be viewed in the context of the broader processes of school reform. Offering a narrative history here of the reforms that have taken place could be useful and interesting, but it is important that this does not become an end in itself, as excellent examples of such...

  4. THREE The rise and fall of the planning model
    (pp. 53-72)

    Under the 1944 Education Act (EA44), for the first time in English history, all parents could access secondary education free of charge for their children up to the age of 15, with all schools funded by the state required to work within the same legislative and regulatory framework. This constituted a step-change from what had been, before 1944, a far more confused and inconsistent environment of educational provision.

    In this chapter, it is argued that pre-existing and long-standing attitudes about schooling based on selection and differentiation contributed to the post-war development of a tripartite system of secondary schooling based on...

  5. FOUR Admissions in a quasi-market system: policy development 1988 to 2012
    (pp. 73-104)

    In this chapter and the next, accounts are given from two different perspectives of the introduction of choice as the organising principle for school admissions. This chapter will examine the political steps, and the legislative and regulatory approaches taken by central government to secure the necessary pre-conditions for establishing choice as the key policy for school admissions: the creation of a quasi-market through school diversity, greater freedom to control admissions at school level, and the limiting of local government powers. This account will be presented in three phases: the phase of policy initiation that started with the Thatcher governments and...

  6. FIVE The realities of choice and accountability in the quasi-market
    (pp. 105-136)

    The harshest critics of admissions arrangements within the quasi-market for schooling offer much, often blunt, comment. When it is reported in the quality media that ‘An insidious mix of selection by ability, faith and postcode is wreaking havoc on the entire schools system’ (Fiona Millar,The Guardian, 12 April 2010), or that ‘School leaders are calling on politicians to end what they call “the misleading rhetoric” of school choice – which they say cannot be delivered’ (BBC, 2008), we have cause to consider seriously whether the outcomes of the system are consistent with democratic and constitutional expectations, and indeed the extent...

  7. SIX Admissions by lottery
    (pp. 137-172)

    The previous three chapters have charted how a system of school admissions premised, in theory at least, on parental choice came to supersede a system centred on admissions policies determined and managed by local education authorities (LEAs). The two different models appear to represent contrasting responses to the wide range of expectations, values and priorities underlying debate regarding school admissions. Competing for priority, in this context, are agenda items relatinginteralia to equality, equity of treatment, national economic needs, local democratic expectations and individual choice. The LEAcentred and choice-based models discussed previously will inevitably give different priorities to these...

  8. SEVEN Conclusions
    (pp. 173-186)

    In the preceding chapters, we have considered three approaches to school admissions based on planning, quasi–markets and randomness. As should be apparent, each of the approaches tends to result in a certain set of outcomes which relate as much or more to the processes utilised to allocate places as to any specified educational outcomes or objectives. Our analysis has been informed by two lines of questioning: first, does each approach deliver what it claims to, and second does each approach meet democratic expectations relating, for example, to equality of citizenship, and, constitutional expectations relating to accountability? Simply put, the...