New research shows that most people think parents should send their children to the nearest state school

Sonia Exley's picture
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')
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Alan's picture
Wed, 07/12/2011 - 22:54

Parents 'don't' realise the long term negative consequences of coaching. Passing an entrance exam as young as 10 years old doesn't mean hot housing will suit these children. The effects of failing to make the grade at such a young age is underresearched for good reason.

“The survey asked around 2,000 members of the British public about a parent’s ‘right to choose’ and found that attitudes were ambivalent.

So what about children’s choices, their rights?

Children and young people’s human rights are recognised under the Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, for example:

Articles 1, 2 and 3 refer to all children and young people having rights, without discrimination, and that adults should always try to do what is best for children and young people.

Article 12 states that children and young people have the right to express their views freely about matters which affect them.

According to a recent report by the Office of the Children's Commissioner: Children and young people's views of education policy, which looked at fairness in the school admission system:

“A high majority (79%) of the responding children and young people felt that all pupils should be able to go to the school of their preference, but less than half (45%) felt that there was a real choice of secondary schools within their area.”

Warwick Cairns's picture
Thu, 08/12/2011 - 12:41

Absolutely agree with Alan Garbuttt about hothousing: if you use coaching to artificially inflate a child's ability to pass a selective school's entrance test you could end up condemning them to years of misery when they discover that they just aren't able to keep up with brighter classmates.
Not so sure about the importance of children's choices at this age: when they're young it's often best for parents to make informed decisions for children's long-term interests. If my choices had been given priority when I was young I would have abolished vegetables and lessons, lived on chocolate and lemonade and spent all day out playing with my friends. As for that Articles 1, 2 and 3 stuff, I go with Jeremy Bentham's judgement of the concept of natural rights: "nonsense upon stilts," was how he put it. 'Rights' are things we've made up, rather than things that have an independent existence. They're a projection of our desires and preferences on an indifferent world.

Alan's picture
Thu, 08/12/2011 - 22:09

With respect, there must be a time in a child's life when s/he is capable of rational decision making; after all, children are criminally responsible at 10 years old. John Rawls’ social contract might be more fitting for children, for setting aside parental preferences from social justice. No such veil of ignorance has descended in recent changes to education policy. Grammar school ballots are being revisited insofar as passing the buck to parents is concerned.

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