School place lottery system 'fails'
A controversial "lottery" designed to allocate school places fairly has failed to reduce segregation between rich and poor pupils, research suggests.
Richer pupils are still dominating places at top-performing schools in Brighton and Hove, and poorer pupils are missing out because of the way school catchment areas are drawn up, according to a study by the Institute of Education and Bristol University.
Brighton and Hove introduced a lottery system, the first of its kind, two years ago following concerns that there were unequal opportunities throughout the country for rich and poor families to access the best schools.
The theory behind Brighton's reforms was that by using a lottery instead of the distance from a child's home to a school as a measure of allocating places, every child would have the same chance of winning a place.
Alongside the introduction of the lottery, new catchment areas were drawn up. Within each of these catchment areas allocations for places is random.
The study, which looks at the first two years of the lottery, concluded that there have been "winners and losers", but so-called "social segregation" - the dividing of pupils based on family income - has not significantly reduced.
It said the way the new catchment areas have been established means that in general, families in the poorest neighbourhoods still have little chance of getting into the popular schools that are in the city centre. This is because a particular school may not be in their catchment area.
The study said: "There are clearly winners and losers from these reforms: some students are attending less academically successful secondary schools than they might have expected to; for others the reverse is true. The location of these winners and losers largely derive from the design of the catchment areas rather than the impact of the lottery where it applies."
The report authors, Rebecca Allen of the Institute of Education, and Simon Burgess and Leigh McKenna of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol University said: "The main lesson of our analysis is that the introduction of a lottery on its own is not enough to equalise access to the high-performing popular schools. The drawing of the catchment area boundaries is central to the outcome of the reform."
The study said it will be "several years" before the impact of Brighton and Hove's reforms will become clear because families are expected to move, and house prices will adjust in response to the new catchment areas.