Research published today as part of the 28th annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) report shows that more than eight in 10 people think parents should send their children to the nearest state school.
New data released from the BSA Survey shows that 63% of people take this view outright, with a further 22% saying they would agree if the quality of different schools and their social mix of pupils was more equal.
The survey asked around 2,000 members of the British public about a parent’s ‘right to choose’ and found that attitudes were ambivalent. While a large majority did favour children attending their nearest state state school, there was also some support for the concept of choice, with 68% agreeing that parents should have a basic right to choose their child’s school and 50% agreeing that parents have a duty to choose ‘the best possible’ school for their child, even if other schools in the local area might suffer.
What this research shows is that parents do not necessarily want to have to make choices
over schools. People do believe that they ought to have a ‘right to choose’, particularly if they are unhappy with their nearest school, but they also feel that if schools were more equal in the first place then choice wouldn't be necessary. Government promotion of choice as an agenda essentially diverts attention away from the bigger issue of why this isn’t the case.
In terms of priorities, only four per cent think that making sure ‘parents have a lot of choice about the kind of school their child goes to’ should be the number one concern for schools. When it comes to choosing a secondary school, seven in ten
(69%) do believe that parents ought to put the needs and interests of their own child first. However, six in ten (60%) also believe that parents ought to balance this concern against the needs and interests of other children.
Two thirds (67%) of respondents approve of parents paying for a private tutor to help their children pass school entrance exams. However, only 36% approve of parents moving house in order to be nearer ‘better schools’, and only 16% approve of parents becoming involved in local religious activities to help get their children into high performing faith schools. Overall, fewer than four in ten (38%) believe that families who can afford it should be able to pay for a better education.
You can read the full report on this research on the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) website
(these findings are drawn from Chapter 4 on 'School Choice')