Just Sociology

Uneven Playing Field: How Marketisation Affects Parental Choice in Education

In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on marketisation policies in education, which involves introducing market mechanisms to enhance competition among schools. Such policies aim to improve the quality of education and provide parents with greater choice in selecting schools for their children.

However, there have been concerns raised about the effects of marketisation policies on education, particularly in regard to the unequal access to quality education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This article will examine the impact of marketisation policies on education and how these policies affect parental choice and access to quality education.

Researching Parental Choice

Research on parental choice explores how parents choose schools for their children, and what factors influence their decisions. In one study, interviews were conducted with parents from fifteen schools across two neighbouring Local Education Authorities (LEAs), which included working-class, middle-class, and ethnic minority parents.

The purpose of this research was to establish how marketisation policies affect parental choice and to explore the different methods parents use to identify the best secondary schools for their children. Marketisation: The Effects on Schools

Marketisation policies have brought with them a number of changes in schools.

League tables, which rank schools based on their academic performance, have become a major feature of the marketisation process. This has led to schools focusing on improved academic performance, often neglecting other educational and social issues.

Budget constraints have also meant that schools have been forced to market themselves to attract students, which has increased competition between schools, leading to a rise in setting and streaming.

Marketisation and Unequal Parental Choice

One criticism of marketisation policies is that they create a system where some parents have more choice than others. Privileged or skilled choosers, typically middle-class parents, often have the resources and inside knowledge to evaluate different schools, which enables them to make informed choices.

In contrast, semi-skilled choosers, such as working-class parents, may have limited capacity, cultural skills, and social contacts, which make it difficult for them to navigate the system. Disconnected choosers, who are often working-class parents with limited financial resources and education attainment, tend to settle for local schools or may have no choice at all.

Skilled Choosers

Middle-class parents with more social and cultural capital are more likely to make informed choices based on their evaluation of different schools. Skilled choosers have inside knowledge about the education system and catchment areas, which enable them to evaluate schools based on their expectations and aspirations for their children.

They also have greater financial resources and access to independent schools, which offer them more choice. Semi-

Skilled Choosers

Semi-skilled choosers, including working-class parents, tend to have limited capacity and cultural skills, which makes it difficult for them to navigate the education system.

They often rely on limited social contacts and may feel uncomfortable asking difficult questions at parents’ evenings. When they are not satisfied with their first choice of school, they may appeal the decision, but this can be a daunting and overwhelming process.

As a result, many semi-skilled choosers end up settling for their local school.

Disconnected Choosers

Working-class parents with limited financial resources and education attainment are often disconnected from the education system. Their choice of school is typically based on their child’s academic record and happiness rather than evaluation of different schools.

They may have no choice or be restricted to undersubscribed or underperforming schools. Disconnected choosers may also lack a support network to navigate the education system, further hampering their chances of making an informed choice.

Cultural and Material Capital and Differential Choice

The advantages that skilled choosers have in the education system are based on their material and cultural capital. Material capital refers to the financial resources they have available to pay for private tuition or independent schools, while cultural capital refers to the lived experiences and social contacts that enable them to navigate the education system.

Skilled choosers have an advantage in making choices based on free choice rather than limited information, including the habitus or cultural norms that frame their expectations of what constitutes a good school. Conclusion:

Marketisation policies have had a considerable impact on education and parental choice.

While these policies are intended to enhance competition and improve the quality of education, they have created an uneven playing field where some parents have more access to quality education than others. Skilled choosers, with more social and cultural capital, are more likely to make informed choices based on their evaluation of different schools.

Semi-skilled and disconnected choosers, on the other hand, face numerous barriers and are often restricted to undersubscribed or underperforming schools. Policy-makers must address these inequalities to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education.

In conclusion, this article has highlighted the impact of marketisation policies on education and how they affect parental choice and access to quality education. While these policies have brought positive changes, they have also created an uneven playing field where some parents have more access to quality education than others.

To overcome this challenge, we need to address the inequalities in the education system and ensure that all students have equal access to quality education. The FAQs below aim to answer some common questions about the topics discussed in this article.

FAQs:

– How do marketisation policies affect parental choice in education? Marketisation policies create an environment in which some parents have more choice than others, particularly middle-class parents with more social and cultural capital.

– What are the effects of marketisation policies on schools? Marketisation policies have led to schools focusing on improving academic performance and neglecting other educational and social issues, increased competition, and budget constraints.

– Why do some parents have limited access to quality education? Working-class parents with limited financial resources and education attainment and limited social and cultural capital face numerous barriers and are often restricted to undersubscribed or underperforming schools.

– What can policy-makers do to address the inequalities in the education system? Policy-makers need to address the inequalities in the education system and ensure that all students have equal access to quality education by investing in schools in disadvantaged areas, providing resources for parent engagement and guidance, and addressing funding inequities.

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