The Opposite of Poverty Is Justice: Persuasive Essay

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A: Patterns identified in the city

It has been recognized that the schools that are furthest from the City Centre and that are on the North and West side of the city are typically higher performing and have a lower percentage of pupils claiming FSM. Therefore, there is clear segregation between the city, whereby the higher-performing schools, where there are a lower proportion of children receiving FSM are concentrated on one side, showcasing a division between poverty and attainment in the city.

The schools that are on the other side of the city, the East and the South, are all similar in their characteristics. Despite being closer to the university, the GCSE performance among these schools is poor, and the percentage of FSM recipients is evidently greater than the schools across the city. The demographics in this particular city suggest that the schools located in the East and South of the city, particularly around the City Centre, and the schools that attract pupils who are more likely to be FSM, suggesting that East and South parts of the city are where there is greater poverty.

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This particular city illustrates this with an evident divide constructed upon the location of these schools. These demographics in this city suggest that the schools located in the East and South of the city, mainly around the City Centre are the schools that attract pupils who are more likely to be FSM recipients or with Special Educational Needs or English as a first language.

B: Why do we care about this segregation?

As noted by Hirsch (2007) children from different backgrounds have distinctive experiences through schooling, therefore we cannot rely on altering the way the curriculum is delivered to disadvantaged pupils, rather the access these pupils have to resources in and outside of school can enhance their experiences as well as more equitable. ‘Children are more likely to have low achievement if they receive free school meals and if they live in poor urban areas’ (Hirsch, 2007, p.4.) This showcases the way in which poverty and factors beyond the control of pupils can affect their attainment and future prospects. Moreover, children from poorer backgrounds have roughly half the chance of attending the high performing schools (Burgess and Briggs, 2010, cited by Allen et al, 2013, p. 163.) Therefore, it is necessary to identify patterns of segregation that prevent children from disadvantaged backgrounds from accessing an equitable education.

Numerous studies have identified that children from disadvantaged homes are less likely to perform well in school, on average, in comparison to their more advantaged counterparts. (Ladd, 2012.) Income plays a vital role in the educational achievement of pupils (Hirsch, 2007.) As well as this, parental involvement in their child’s schooling is largely influenced by socio-economic status too (Harris and Goodall, 2008, p.279.) Educational achievement in the rural areas is higher in comparison to urban areas of the city, suggesting that those living in the urban areas, acquire a lower income. This can impact pupils’ grades and achievement from as early as the age of seven and more significantly by the age of sixteen (West, 2007.) Not only does the impact of parental income disrupt the attainment of pupils, but also how long they stay in education. For example, those pupils who are in employment or a form of training by the age of sixteen, are more likely to have left due to the lack of financial resources from their parents for them to continue (Rennison et al, 2005, cited by West, 2007, p 284.) Therefore, not only does this segregation between income and poverty affect pupils’ short term, but also has a negative influence on social inequality and the future incomes of these young people (Marcus, 2018.)

Moreover, school choice in the 1990s tended to be based on locality and the nearest school to people’s homes. However, this has now developed into parental choice being informed by OFSTED reports, results, self-promotion, the introduction of new schools, and other choices (Alderson and Goodey, 2018.) This impacted the housing market, resulting in parents who had the financial capital to relocate to areas that are home to ‘good’ schools. This results in segregation that is visible in the 20 schools analyzed above. Segregation in schools occurs at all levels, in grades, for children who suffer from disabilities and other difficulties and mental health sufferers (Alderson and Goodey, 2018.) Therefore, it is necessary to prevent segregation in order to create an equal playing field for all pupils, regardless of socio-economic background, location, and parental income.


The solution I am proposing is to allocate school places based on a randomized lottery for all state schools under Local Authority Education (LEA) control. The process would work similarly to the Brighton and Hove example and some states in the US, whereby clusters/catchment areas will be created. This will allow pupils to attend a school based on random allocation, to be mixed among other pupils in the catchment area, and also have a reasonable travel distance to the school.

‘Justice demands impartiality, and lotteries are uniquely capable of ensuring impartiality under the right circumstances’ (Stone, 2008, p. 269.) As noted by Allen et al, (2013) a lottery offers admissions to become equal and separates the associations from neighborhoods and the reliance on income through the prices of homes. The explicit function of the lottery system is to overcome repeating patterns of disadvantages when school allocation is based on distance and proximity (Symaco and Brock, 2015, p. 56.) My solution is inspired by the evidence found by Burgess, Vignoles, and Greaves (2014) whereby restrictions such as distance to ‘good’ schools are increasing the levels of inequality between families with different incomes rather than other preference factors. Using ideas and successes from the reforms made in Brighton and Hove, it will be argued that allocation by lottery is the best solution to making education more equitable.

Proximity and location

Evidence suggests that the wealthiest families reside closer to schools that achieve grades that are significantly greater than the schools located closer to poorer areas. Typically, the most common means to assign school places where the number of applications exceeds places is proximity. On average, those among the lower socio-economic group tend to compromise school quality over distance, resulting in segregation among those who can access the higher-performing schools, simply based upon proximity, making social mobility for poorer pupils more difficult. This criterion of proximity is arguably reliable for the significant inequality in children from low-income families attending higher-performing schools (Burgess, Vignoles, and Greaves, 2014.) As outlined by Stone (2008) proximity is largely associated with income and those with a good income are more likely to live among similar families, therefore this itself is a violation of impartiality when allocating school places (p.271.) However, allocation by lottery would decrease the prominence on proximity when allocating school places and can ‘limit socially divisive house buying incentives’ (Cullinane, 2017.) It is therefore evident that wealth plays a huge role in attainment however, as reinforced by many government strategies, education should be fair and accessible for all. Among the disadvantaged families, on average, only half will receive the opportunity to attend a high-scoring school (Burgess and Briggs, 2010, cited by Allen et al., 2013.) Therefore, lottery allocation among state schools, in comparison to test-based allocations or to simply attend the closest school in the catchment area is more equal and does not hold a bias. Similar to the catchment areas created in Brighton and Hove, this lottery-based system must broaden catchment areas to include a variety of schools, otherwise the same inequality will eventually reproduce. As noted by Allen et al., (2013) the catchment areas are crucial to the outcome when establishing a lottery and can result in a less effective outcome, for example in Brighton and Hove, the homogenous catchment areas created less of a significant difference in some catchment areas.

Parental choice

‘Schools matter and schools differ: educational attainment is key to a child’s life chances, and schools vary in their ability to raise attainment’ (Burgess, Greaves, and Vignoles, 2019, p. 690.) According to Ball et al. (1996), school choice was dependent upon whether parents were ‘privileged’ or ‘skilled’ and these referred to parents from wealthier, higher social backgrounds, contrasting to the ‘disconnected’ parents. If school allocation is always associated with things that can be purchased, for example, houses and extra lessons, the outcome of who goes to which school will always favor those among the wealthy (Allen and Burgess, n.d.) Allocating school places by lottery means that the notion of parental choice will have little influence over where children will go to school and are the first step to tackle this segregation, because choice itself becomes a privilege. This offers everyone an equal opportunity. From a social justice perspective, school allocation by lottery will in theory create a social mix in schools and will prevent middle-class parents from pursuing places in the schools identified as more successful. It is not to say that other factors such as demographics and other social factors do not influence social segregation, however, allocation by lottery would eliminate parental choice, targeting to decrease the poverty and attainment gap across schools. Furthermore, it will prevent the wealthier families from buying into things like houses in order to acquire an advantage, which was demonstrated by two particular catchment areas when this was established in Brighton and Hove.

Competition and life chances

The lottery allocation will in practice eliminate competition between schools and pupils, this is because schools should get a random selection of pupils. ‘The most obvious contribution that a lottery can make is to render the final decision impartial (Stone, 2007, cited by Stone, 2008, p. 270.) This enables pupils from all backgrounds and socio-economic groups in getting a chance to attend an unbiased school, providing an educational advantage for all pupils. As identified by Allen et al., (2013) there was a degree of homogenization of the intake of FSM pupils across Brighton and Hove. Commonly, admissions policies favor and prioritize certain students in relation to oversubscription, for example, if they have an existing sibling at the school or proximity. Lottery allocation from the beginning allows equality for all pupils and an impartial decision made by the school and also disregards competition between schools and pupils. Furthermore, this system would relieve students of the mental pressure of competing with others, and to pursue hobbies and interests they are passionate about, rather than what will make them look ‘good’ (Schwartz, 2014.) Therefore, not only will this decrease the competition but will broaden opportunities for students and create a diverse group of young people. Rather than pupils having to compete with each other in order to be good enough to attend selective schools, the system is based purely upon luck (Schwartz, 2014.)

It is important to note that these factors outlined above that identify causes of segregation are not exclusive and by no means do they work individually, often these factors work collectively and inequality is created as a result. As noted by Smith (2012) policies that encourage parental choice do not solely result in segregation, rather a range of factors, such as demographics and socioeconomic factors combined can have a significant impact.

Proposed disadvantages

When confronting social justice issues, particularly educational inequalities, there is no perfect solution, however, a lottery system is one key method in which school provision becomes more equitable due to no biases and preferences of students. However, there are still barriers to overcome.

The first disadvantage of this system is that those parents among the wealthier groups can still decide to opt out of schools under Local Education Authorities and send their children to privately funded schools. Private schools cannot be a part of the lottery system because admissions are subject to parents paying fees. Therefore, the inequality among some particular schools may still become apparent and those pupils who are unable to afford such schooling must settle for schools under LEA and may be at an educational disadvantage compared to their counterparts. However, when using the lottery system, the higher-achieving state schools under the lottery system are then less likely to be dominated by only high-achieving pupils and can result in a more balanced intake (Harrison, 2014.) As well as this, the lottery-based system may make it difficult for schools to cater to the needs of many different types of pupils. For example, the allocation of pupils with Special Educational Needs being taught side by side with other pupils may be contentious (Smith, 2012.) Therefore, classes and year groups may not be able to get access to the resources that best suit them if they are allocated a place randomly. This can put many pupils at an educational disadvantage, resulting in further long-term segregation. However, this issue itself is contentious and may not necessarily be perceived as a disadvantage for some. Smith (2012) identifies the debates centered around the 1981 Education Act and the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities article, outlining that inclusion of all pupils should be maintained where possible. Therefore, the lottery system may also impact this positively.

Furthermore, as noted by Symaco and Brock (2015) whilst the system of lottery allocation is designed to solve segregation regarding social composition, the biggest problem may be that travel time to school may increase significantly if children are not sent to local schools. Furthermore, parents who may have more than one child could end up sending their children to different schools (Harrison, 2014.) The former part of this may not be as difficult if the lottery system creates catchment areas in which pupils stay within. Therefore, it is essential that in order to prevent certain areas from being dominated by the higher social classes, the catchment areas include a variety of different attaining schools as well as being reasonable for families to travel. The latter, families may end up with their children attending more than one school is a disadvantage of the lottery system that is yet to be resolved.

When closely considering the impact of the lottery on Brighton and Hove, Allen et al., (2013) document that when analyzing segregation across the city directly, an increased level of segregation was found due to the contentious design of the catchment areas. This resulted in some winners and losers as a result of the lottery and this in itself is arguably unfair. Those who may have been more capable of attending a higher-attaining school may have been allocated to a less successful secondary school and this poses academic and ethical problems. However, this can be solved by addressing catchment area boundaries in order to prevent certain catchment areas from reproducing the proximity problem again.

Despite the proposed disadvantages, the lottery system in practice will tackle the issue surrounding school provision becoming more equitable. Randomized allocation will challenge house-buying incentives in particular areas, a parental choice that can exclude particular families, and unfair life chances for the socially disadvantaged, whilst remaining impartial when allocating school places (Stone, 2008.) As identified in this essay, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are often deprived of opportunities and education in comparison to their wealthier counterparts. Schools are a place in which pupils learn their academics, but also a place in which norms and values are transmitted which stay with pupils for the rest of their lives. It is vital to ensure that every child has fair and equal access to a fair level of schooling and academia. Allocation by lottery is one way to ensure impartiality and fairness for all pupils regardless of their socioeconomic position and background. This way, young people will access an education that is fair and equitable.


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