The Parental Choice In England


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The reforms that introduced parental choice or 'choice' system is aimed to increase educational standards as parents will be choosing the ideal school for their child instead of attending local school (Burgess, Greaves, Vignoles and Wilson, 2009). It is also to extend the rights of the parents and their responsibilities in their child's education. Furthermore, by the 'choice' system, all schools regardless of its level have to compete by improving their standards in order to be chosen by parents.

Hence, by giving autonomy in selecting their preference of schools, parents can choose school regardless the boundaries of catchment area and across the country which they think the best for their child.

It is also aimed to give fair access to all schools and give advantage to the school as the school funding is linked to student enrollment numbers. Thus, it is likely that schools would allow more student enrollment.

However, according to Burgess, Greaves, Vignoles and Wilson (2009), parental choice in England failed to operate as the theoretical model suggests due to the hindrance of market mechanism by parents who are restricted in their choice, and thus, schools do not compete nor improve their performances. Burgess, Greaves, Vignoles and Wilson (2009) state that "parents may place value on the "wrong" school characteristics".

Baker (2007) has mentioned that one of the problems of parental choice is the debate on how to assign school places. In theory, the 1988 Education Act suggested that parents are able to choose freely of any schools which they liked without looking at distance and council boundaries. However, schools could reject applications if they were physically full. Therefore, parents' choice is not fully guaranteed though they have the right to choose. Baker (2007) stated that there is more dissatisfaction parents in England compare to Scotland regarding the 'choice' system as great majority of parents in Scotland are able to accept the local council's choice of school.

Then, it also raised a concern of the increased of inequalities between schools which is contradict to the aims of the new regime.

In addition, there are a number of people who are concerned of the increased of segregation of students with different backgrounds with the implementation of school choice which similar to selective system (Willms, 1997). According Willms (1997) in research findings 1996, the segregation along social lines has increased as the reforms proceeded. Middle class pupils are increasingly isolated into small number and the largest increased of middle class pupils segregation in Scotland is in its five biggest cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Pasiley, Aberdeen and Dundee). Therefore, there is high possibility that a wider disparity will result a greater inequalities attainment (Willms, 2997).

It is thought that parents' choice in choosing an ideal school for their child is basically based on the academic quality; however, findings through research have found out that there are other reasons

A number of news have been reporting that the number of failing schools have dramatically increased since the introduction of the new system. Hurst (2010) has reported that in the first four months of the new system, 10 per cent of 218 schools were in its lowest category while 102 of the schools were put in special measures and 116 of 218 schools were notified to improve. These figures represent a dramatic leap of 150 per cent of previous schools when 4 percent of the schools were inadequate. However according to the report, it was also misleading to compare the inspections figures as the inspection cycles are not carried out regularly and the same for all schools. For example, previous schools which were found to be in satisfactory state are only to be inspected once in every five years while those schools which are in its lowest state are to be inspected every three years (Hugh, 2010). Therefore, it cannot be assumed that those schools which were previously judged as good school will maintain their standards and performances. In addition for the flaw of the parental choice is that, it brings dissatisfaction from the schools due to the inspections and the criteria to be judged as good school based on the level of achievement, child protection and equality that are met by the schools (Hugh, 2010).

Baker, M. (2007). The problem with school 'choice'. BBC News, [online] (Last updated 1:25 GMT on 3 March 2007) Available at: <> [Accessed on 10 November 2010].

Burgess, S., Greaves, E., Vignoles, A. and Wilson, D. (2009). Parental choice of primary school in England: what 'type' of schools do parents choose? CMPO working paper no. 09/224 [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 November 2010].

Willms, J. D. (1997) Parental Choice of Education Policy. [pdf]. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 November 2010].

Hurst, G. (2010). Number of failing schools leaps 150 per cent under new regime. Times Online, [online] 10 March. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 November 2010].

Machin, S. and Vignoles, A. (2006) Education Policy in the UK. London: CEE. Introduction/Chapter 1[online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 November 2010].

Teelken, C. (n.d.) Market forces in education, a comparative perspective in England and Scotland [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 November 2010].

Hatcher, R. (2010). The marketisation of the school system in England. <> [Accessed 12 November 2010]

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