School choice

Chapter summary: School choice

Parental freedom to choose and educational equality

Two considerations influence policy and thinking around school choice – the importance of parents having the freedom to choose and the potential impact of this choice on educational equality. The government recently consulted on a new Schools Admissions Code which seeks to increase parental choice by allowing the most popular schools to expand. What does the public think about secondary school choice and how much parental freedom and educational equality matter?

People generally believe parents have a right to choose their children’s schools – but in practice view children attending their local schools as important.

  • Almost seven in ten (67%) agree parents should have a basic right to choose their children’s schools.
  • But an even larger proportion think parents in general should send their children to the nearest state school. 63% support this idea outright and a further 22%, who do not support this idea outright, would do so if schools were more equal in their quality and their mix of pupils.

There is mixed public support for the different measures some parents take to improve their child’s chances of gaining places at particular schools.

  • A majority approve of helping children to revise for tests (90%) or paying for a private tutor (67%), to improve their chances of gaining a place at a particular school. Far fewer – 36% – approve of moving house to be near a higher-performing school while just 6% in each case approve of renting a second address or using a relative’s address.
  • Six in ten (61%) think the quality of education should be the same for all children while four in ten (38%) think parents who can afford it should be able to pay for better education.

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