Under the existing system, schools which are oversubscribed have to prioritise children who are currently or were previously in care, and ASCL says this should be extended to ensure the poorest children are also prioritised.
Mr Barton said that ideally there would be a school with a top Ofsted rating in every area. However, in the meantime, overhauling the admissions system would help level the playing field and give children from disadvantaged households “fairer access” to popular schools in affluent areas.
“This is something we can do sooner rather than later without waiting for slow incremental change or spending huge amounts of money,” he said.
“We recognise this suggestion would require detailed consideration about exactly how a change of this nature to the school admissions code would work, but we believe the possibilities are worth exploring.
“A government which constantly talks about levelling up should certainly give this serious consideration.”
Overhauling performance tables also suggested
It is one of a number of recommendations from ASCL, set out in a new report titled Blueprint for a Fairer Education System.
Other suggestions include reviewing the national curriculum to ensure that it focuses on fewer things in greater depth, and overhauling school performance tables to take in aspects such as exclusion rates and the breadth of the curriculum.
The blueprint added that pupil premium funding for supporting disadvantaged pupils should include 16- to 19-year-olds, while funding for pupils who have special educational needs should be reformed to be clearer.
Mr Barton added: “We propose streamlining the cluttered curriculum, modernising assessment and exams, providing extra funding for the children and young people who most need that support, and making school performance tables more meaningful for parents and pupils.
“There’s nothing new about the attainment gap between rich and poor. We’ve been talking about it for years. But we’re still not making anything like the progress that is needed in closing that gap and we can’t expect to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. It is time for change.”