Benefit cap will force more children to move schools mid-year, says thinktank

Mar 3, 2013 by

RSA warns that poorer children are more likely to have their education disrupted if they are forced out of affluent areas

A thinktank has warned that the national rollout of the benefit cap could bring significant disruption to education after identifying an already sharp rise in the number of pupils from poorer families moving schools in the middle of school years.

Government data for so-called in-year admissions to schools in England has been analysed by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

The figures showed an overall drop of 3.8% in the numbers moving school mid-academic year from 2007/8 to 2011/12. However, for pupils eligible for free school meals, the standard educational measure for a deprived background, the numbers rose from 62,956 to 86,921 – an increase of 38% over the four years. In the last year, the figure increased by about 10%.

The effect is magnified by the increased numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals over the period, but even the rate of in-year admissions per 10,000 pupils showed a near-20% rise.

From April people living in four trial areas in London – Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey – will have overall benefits capped at £26,000 a year, with the scheme becoming nationwide in December. Opponents have warned that it could cause a mass movement of poorer families out of parts of London or other expensive areas, disrupting children’s education.

Joe Hallgarten, the RSA’s director of education, said poorer children appeared likely to face more such school moves.

He said: “We have yet to see the full impact of changes to housing benefit. So what we’re seeing is a potential perfect storm, if you like, for in-year moves. It’s what you might call a group of newly vulnerable families. These are not the classic families who move children between schools. This might impact on schools and local authorities which are simply not used to dealing with these levels of pupil mobility. Some areas, particularly cities and where there’s seasonal employment, have processes in place and deal with it very well. For other areas it will be new.”

Another issue was that academies and free schools are now able to take responsibility themselves for in-year admissions, though some still pass this on to their local authority. Overall, Hallgarten said, the situation was “potentially more chaotic”.

“We’ve got a problem with more in-year admissions with children who are probably at greater risk of underachievement already, together with them facing a system which is more fragmented.”

via Benefit cap will force more children to move schools mid-year, says thinktank | Society | The Guardian.

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