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Between the cracks: Exploring in-year admissions in schools in England

Moving school during the school year rarely catches the headlines, but matters hugely to the large number of pupils who are admitted in this way, especially those who do so many times. The numbers moving schools at ‘non-standard times’ are far higher than is often realised.

Moving schools in-year can have a positive impact, and many schools ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. However, research has consistently shown that in-year moves have disruptive impacts on the outcomes of too many pupils. Overall, in-year movers tend to have lower prior attainment, and achieve less well as a result of moving. Moves are clustered in lower attaining schools in more disadvantaged localities, so that pupil mobility has a negative impact on schools already under pressure. Although difficult to prove, it is likely that the current in-year admissions process is reinforcing patterns of segregation in one of the most socially segregated school systems in the world.

The number of in-year moves increased following the growth of parental preference policies and a rise in formal exclusions during the 1990s. The issue received growing attention since 2000, with national policy increasingly trying to restrict the scope for schools to game their intake, through revisions to the Code of Practice. This included the important introduction of Fair Access Protocols (FAPs).