Academies and free schools can unfairly exclude disadvantaged children with impunity, a liberal think tank confirmed today.
The Pearson and RSA-funded Academies Commission poured cold water on the Con-Dems' academy agenda, saying it had heard "numerous submissions" of school heads worming their way around admissions criteria to cherry-pick children.
The publicly funded schools set their own curriculums, financial decisions and admissions criteria, but are bound by the Department for Education's school admissions code.
The code says that schools cannot interview children or parents or give priority based on a parent's financial or practical support.
But several witnesses had told the commission of "social" events and pre-admission meetings, claiming they were designed to weed out "less useful" pupils.
The commission said: "As the pace and scale of academisation lead to a rapid rise in the number of schools that are their own admission authorities, there is a risk that admissions 'game playing' may be extended further."
The commission said it broadly supported academies but the government needed to create an independent appeals body for aggrieved parents and needed regular socio-economic breakdowns of each school's applications and admissions.
Teachers' union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said the findings mirrored her own concerns.
Many of the practices it described had become embedded through the lack of public scrutiny or democratic oversight, she said.
And Education Secretary Michael Gove had failed to establish "any relationship whatsoever" between his academy agenda and actual policies to improve student learning.
Ms Keats said: "At the very least this report should give ministers reason to pause for thought, reflect upon the recklessness of their academies programme and instead work with all those with a stake in the education system to develop a fairer, more effective and genuinely accountable alternative."
National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower called the report "a very worrying picture for parents, pupils, teachers and society."
She said: "This is a situation which will only get worse as the government hands yet more schools over to unaccountable sponsors and allows more free schools to open."
The Department for Education did not respond to the Morning Star's requests for comment.
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