A study of factors affecting parental choice of secondary school
This thesis describes a research study which endeavours to determine the reasons why parents prefer one school above another when selecting a secondary school for their child. It also examined how these reasons and choices are influenced by the social status of the family and the gender of the child. The major issues addressed in the literature review include; the range of educational choices in which parents could be involved (including choices within schools and choices between schools), the changes in legislation concerning choice of school from The 1921 Act up to the present day, how Local Education Authority policy and practices have led and followed the Central Government legislation, the reasons put forward, for and against, parental choice of schools, a summary of what authors and previous researchers have said about why parents choose particular schools and finally a summary of what the literature offers on the issue of measuring social status. For this empirical study a detailed questionnaire was distributed to over 2000 parents and just over 1250, or 62%, were returned. The respondents were parents of children who were expected to move on to attend one of the 15 secondary schools in a town just outside London. This provided sufficient data to answer each of the following research questions concerning parents selecting a secondary school for their child: 1. What proportion of parents choose their closest secondary school? 2. To what extent do parents read school brochures and attend school open nights and to what extent are parents influenced by these and other sources of information? 3. Which characteristics of a school do parents value most? 4. Do the parents who favour each particular secondary school do so because they value the same characteristics of the school, or do the parents who favour each particular secondary school do so for a whole range of different reasons? Each of the first three issues is further analysed to determine if the parents' responses are related to the social status of the family or the gender of the child. Multilevel analysis is employed to analyse the data because it not only enables the above questions to be answered but also determines how the relationships between the variables vary from one school to another. The results clearly show that a majority of parents in the area surveyed prefer their child to attend a school other than the closest one. However, this trend is significantly more common among parents in the high social status group than among parents in the lowest group. It is also evident that high social status parents read more brochures and attended more open nights and that they are influenced significantly more by talks with other parents. The school characteristics that parents sought for their child are similar to those found in previous studies but this study shows that the proportion of parents who cited many of these characteristics varies significantly between parents of different social status levels and between parents of boys and parents of girls. Finally, it was shown that parents discriminate between cq-educational and single-sex schools and between denominational and non-denominational schools but after these two factors have been considered the best discriminators between the schools parents choose are social status variables. Educational variables only account for about 20% of the discriminatory power of parents and this suggests that efforts by schools to attract parents and students can at best be 20% effective.