19 December 2013

One in three (32%) of professional parents with children aged 5 to 16 have moved house to an area they believe has good schools, while 18% have moved to live in the catchment area of a specific school.

These figures come from new Sutton Trust research entitled “Parent Power?” which found a large gap between social classes over the extent to which they adopted expensive strategies to further their children’s education, including moving home or hiring a tutor.

Professional parents (68%) were more likely to pay for lessons and activities outside school than the lowest income parents (31%), leading the researchers to conclude that “equality of opportunity is being undermined by the greater purchasing power of some parents”.

According to the research, 2% of the parents surveyed have bought a second home and use that address so their children can gain access to a specific school (including 5% in the upper middle classes), while 3% admitted using a relative’s address for this purpose (including 6% in the upper middle classes).

Another 6% confessed to attending church services so their child could attend a church school (including 10% in the upper middle classes).

Interestingly, the research also found that all parents rely more on school visits or open days (70%) and talking to other parents (62%) when choosing schools than on Ofsted reports (57%) and school prospectuses (53%).

Sir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust Chair, warned: “School admissions need to be fairer so that the best schools aren’t just for those who can afford to live nearby, with ballots used particularly in urban areas.”

However, Nick Faith from the think tank Policy Exchange said that, instead of stigmatising parents for doing their best for their children, the quality of teaching in the poorest areas needs to be improved.