Recent research suggests that about one in three (32%) professional parents in England have moved to an area in the interest of sending their children to good schools.
18% of professional parents in England are shown to have moved to live in the catchment area of a specific school by a Sutton Trust study. Additionally, 2% admitted to buying a second home to use that address for a given school. Rather than castigating parents who did their best for their children, the focus must be improving teaching in poorer areas according to the Policy Exchange.
According to Katherine Sellgren of BBC News, 3% of professional parents admitted using a relative’s address to get their children into a particular school as the analysis of the results by the Sutton Trust found. Additionally, it found that to get their child into a church school, 6% admitted attending church services when they did not previously do so – including 10% of upper-middle-class families surveyed.
The “cultural capital” of weekly music, drama or sporting lessons and activities outside school was more likely to be paid for by the professional parents. 68%, which represent more than two-thirds of professionals did so, compared with 47% of working-class parents and 31% of the lowest income parents.
Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl said: “This research suggests that those with money actively choose to live near good schools, employ tutors and ensure their children have extra lessons and enrichment activities that are often too expensive for other families to afford.
“This provides a significant advantage in school choice and in developing the cultural capital that is so important to social mobility and later success.
“Education is about more than what happens at school and providing a more level playing field in school choice and out-of-school activities are essential if every child is to achieve his or her potential.”
The introduction of ballots for school admissions so that the best schools are not just for those who can afford to live nearby was advocated by Sir Peter.
One of the authors of the report, Prof Becky Francis, said:
“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.”
However, Nick Faith, from the Policy Exchange think tank, said:
“It’s not right to stigmatise parents for trying to do the best by their children.
“Instead of making scapegoats of people who are simply attempting to improve the life chances of their kids, the focus should be on driving up the quality of teaching in the poorest areas of the country.
“At the moment a child living in one of the most deprived areas of the UK is a year behind a child from the richest areas in terms of vocabulary development.
“There must be a renewed drive to improve the quality of pre-school teaching, both in nurseries and children’s centers. Schools must also encourage all children, regardless of their backgrounds, to reach their full potential.
“These measures, rather than castigating specific groups of parents, will be lead to better educational outcomes for all children.”
Encouraging schools to publish socioeconomic data on applications is recommended by the Sutton Trust report as well as admissions to encourage “inclusive practice”. Additionally, the report suggests that the Government should improve the range and quality of information available to working-class parents. Also, providing means-tested vouchers to enable working-class parents to offer the extra lessons and cultural activities for their children that other parents take for granted; ministers should extend the pupil premium.
“The recommendation would empower families to take ownership of their children’s developmental and educational opportunities,” the report says.