Parental choice in secondary education : socio-spatial dynamics and motivation
This thesis has two main aims. First, to establish whether the strengthening in 1988 of the right of parents to choose a secondary school for their child has led to increased travel to out-of-catchment schools in a case study area. Second, to identify the extent of socio-spatial variation of patterns and trends in choice of school. Secondary school transfer data relating to over 16,000 children for 1991 and 1993 to 1995 was analysed in a Geographical Information System (GIS). One hundred and sixty two parents of children about to transfer to secondary school were interviewed with the objective of revealing the contextual factors underlying the patterns and trends of pupil movements identified in the course of the GIS analysis. The practice and outcomes of parental choice were examined at four scales: the parent, the neighbourhood, the school and the LEA Area. Whilst the main value of this thesis lies in its presentation of empirical evidence of the socio-spatial outcomes of school choice, the results are placed in the context of relevant theoretical perspectives. The study finds that the proportion of children transferring to out-of-catchment secondary school has increased between 1991 and 1995 but that any increase in parental choice is constrained by a variety of factors that interact in complex ways to produce substantial socio-spatial variation in its expression. It is concluded that policy and practice relating to school choice can substantially affect educational equity and efficiency. It is recommended that the operation of local education markets be more closely monitored by LEAs and that GIS analysis, as used in this study, is an important tool for this purpose.