Poorer children are missing out on places at England’s top performing schools because their parents can’t afford a £45,700 house premium.
Research has found that living in the catchment area of one of the 500 top comprehensives – based on GCSE results – costs around 20% more than the average house in the same local authority.
And the top 500 schools are more ‘socially selective’ taking just over half the proportion of disadvantaged pupils taken by the average state school – 9% compared to 17%.
A study by the Sutton Trust education charity found that these schools admit around 9.4% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) – a key measure of poverty, compared to 17.2% attending the average state school.
More than eight in 10 (85%) of the top 500 schools take fewer poorer pupils than they should do, given the numbers living in their catchment area.
Faith schools were the most socially selective group of top schools, the study concludes, making up 33.4% of the top 500, based on A*-C grades, including English and maths.
The findings come on the day that children across the country are told which secondary school they have been allocated for this autumn and show that the top schools are taking more poorer pupils, up from 7.6% in 2013.
Sir Peter Lampl,Sutton Trust chairman, said: “Getting a place at a high attaining school is key to getting on in life. Yet the bottom line is your chances of doing that depends on your parents’ income and whether they can afford the extra £45,700 house premium to live in the catchment area.
“This is why we want to see more use of ballots – where a proportion of places is allocated randomly. Ballots would ensure that a wider mix of pupils would get into the best schools.”
An analysis of government figures shows a fall in the proportion of families winning a place at their favoured secondary school.
Liverpool, in the North West, saw the biggest drop in first choices, down seven percentage points on 2015, while Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, had the biggest drop in overall preferences year on year, down 4.2 points.
Meanwhile, poorer children are facing greater difficulties to break the “class ceiling” because of their background, a report by the social mobility chairty Teach First has found.
The poorest areas of England are half as likely to have an outstanding secondary and five times more likely to have a school that is rated as less than good, the report’s analysis of official data shows.
While nearly all secondary schools (93%) in the richest areas of the country are judged by Ofsted to be “good” or “outstanding”, only about two-thirds (67%) are at this level in the poorest areas.
About one in 14 (7%) secondary schools in the richest areas are considered to “require improvement” or are “inadequate”, compared with more than a third (36%) of those in the poorest places.
“These barriers are preventing us from achieving a country that works for everyone; where opportunities are available for all, not an impossible dream forthose who manage to break down barriers early on in their life are still likely to struggle later on.”