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"Banding" and secondary school admissions: 1972-2004

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This paper focuses on the system of banding used in England by the former Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) in order to seek to obtain an intake to secondary schools that was balanced in terms of ability. The first part of the paper provides a brief history of the system of banding, how it was informed by verbal reasoning testing and how it was subsequently based on the results of a specially constructed reading test. The second part of the paper examines the extent of banding after the abolition of the ILEA. Whilst LEA-wide banding is currently only used by three LEAs, many schools in inner London that are responsible for their own admissions (i.e. voluntary-aided and foundation schools) have introduced banding. The problems associated with banding at a school level are discussed and it is argued that banding at the level of the LEA is likely to be more equitable, more transparent and more likely to reduce social segregation; in addition, there is some evidence to suggest that the ILEA banding system resulted in a higher percentage of parents achieving their stated first preference school than more recent admissions policies.

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