A new study has found that about one in three, or 32%, of professional parents with children aged five to 16 has moved to a new area for ‘good’ schools. The research was conducted by Professor Becky Francis, Department of Education and Professional Studies at King’s College London.
The study revealed that 18% have moved to live in the catchment area of a specific school. Professor Francis worked alongside Professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University on the study. The researchers analyzed the results of an online survey of 1,173 parents of children aged 5-16 years who attended school, according to King’s College London.
According to the research, there is a much bigger gap between different social classes in the extent to which they used strategies, including moving home or hiring a private tutor, to help their children.
About 2% of parents admitted to buying a second home and using that address so that their children could gain access to a specific school, including 5% of the upper middle classes; 3% admitted using a relative’s address for that purpose, including 6% of the upper middle classes; 6% admitted attending church services when they didn’t previously so their child could go to a church school, including 10% in the upper middle classes.
Additionally, the researcher found that all parents rely more on school visits or open days and talking to other parents in selecting schools than Ofsted reports and school prospectuses. The study found different approaches to school choice. ‘Hyper choosers’ use five or more sources to choose a school while ‘limited choosers’ rely on one or none of the main sources.
According to the study, working class parents were significantly more likely to be ‘limited choosers’ than those in other classes. Also, 17% of the lowest income parents say they looked at none of the listed sources.
The study found that 38% of professional parents were ‘hyper choosers’, consulting at least five information sources, compared to 13% of working class parents. In addition, professional parents were more likely to pay for weekly music, drama or sporting lessons and activities outside school. More than two-thirds of professionals pay for such activities, compared with 47% of working class parents and 31% of the lowest income parents, according to the study.
“Our research shows just how far equality of opportunity is being undermined by the greater purchasing power of some parents. The ability for some parents but not others to use financial resources to secure their children’s achievement poses real impediments for social mobility, which need to be recognized and addressed as detrimental to society,” Professor Becky Francis said.
The report recommends government to introduce means-tested vouchers for working class parents to spend on extra tuition, books and cultural activities for their children. Also, better information about schools and about the right for poorer pupils to free transport to a choice of schools should be made available to parents.
The research also recommends schools to publish socio-economic data on applications and admissions and government should encourage ballots and banding for fairer admissions.