17 Oct 2007

Education Lottery Forces Parents To Take Desperate Measures

17 October 2007

An education ‘postcode lottery’ means that parents across the UK would consider moving house in order to get their child into a good school, a new poll commissioned by The Children’s Society reveals today.

Half of respondents (51%) agreed that they would be prepared to move house to get their child into a good school. One in seven (14%) agreed they would go as far as giving false information, such as lying about their faith or where they live. This figure rose to 23% in London.

The survey, conducted by GfK NOP, is the third in a series called Reflections on Childhood commissioned by The Children’s Society, as part of its Good Childhood Inquiry – the UK’s first independent national inquiry into childhood.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society said: “The lengths that parents are prepared to go to clearly indicate that there are huge variations in school standards. But for many parents, the costly exercise of moving house to get their child into a good school is simply not an option. The current system is in danger of embedding inequality by making a child’s social class and economic circumstances the key influencer in their educational success.”

Other research has shown that poorer children are less likely to have a good school among their nearest three schools. Forty-four per cent of children that are eligible for free school meals have a good school nearby compared to 61% of their peers (1).

“Unless we create a system where all children have equal access to a good education, millions of children will be denied a fair start in life,’ said Bob Reitemeier.

Learning is the third of six key themes to be considered by The Good Childhood Inquiry. Evidence considered by the panel shows that although levels of attainment have been rising steadily over the last 20 years and more pupils are staying on after 16 (2), certain groups continue to lag behind (3). From the age of six, children from disadvantaged homes are overtaken by children in better-off families (4). Professionals submitting evidence also expressed concern that teachers are reporting an increase in children starting school with poor speech and language skills.

Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology at The University of Oxford who is leading the inquiry’s investigation into learning said: “Learning does not start and end at the school gates. Research shows that children also learn through play and from spending time with family and friends. We must consider how to ensure that children thrive in all these environments.”

The Reflections on Childhood poll also looked at assessment and the curriculum. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents agreed there is more emphasis on tests and exams nowadays than when they were at school, while 61% strongly agreed that a priority for schools should be to support children’s social and emotional development.

“If we want to equip children for all aspects of future life teaching them to be literate and numerate is not enough, we need to widen the scope and invest in the emotional and social skills they will require day to day, “said Kathy Sylva.

A summary of the evidence about learning submitted to the inquiry by the public, adults and professionals can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk. Over the next 12 months the inquiry will hold meetings on the remaining themes of lifestyle, health and values before publishing its final report in early 2009.

The public can contribute to The Good Childhood Inquiry by logging on to
www.hundredsandthousands.org.uk and sharing their childhood memories.



Notes to Editors:

* Good Childhood: what you told us about learning, a summary of the learning evidence submitted to The Good Childhood Inquiry can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk
* GfK NOP conducted a total of 1,255 telephone interviews with a sample of UK adults aged 16 or over. The data was weighted to ensure it was representative of the UK population. Fieldwork took place between 21 August – 5 September 2007. A summary of the findings can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk.
* The Good Childhood Inquiry – the UK’s first independent national inquiry into childhood – is managed by The Children’s Society. The inquiry’s final report and recommendations will be published in early 2009.
* The Children's Society is driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. It provides vital help and understanding for those forgotten children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk

1. Burgess, S, Briggs, A, McConnell, B and Slater, H, (2006) ‘School Choice in England: Background Facts’ CMPO Working Paper No. 06/159, University of Bristol
2. DCSF (www.dfes.gov.uk)
3. The Equalities Review (2007) Fairness and Freedom: The Final Report of the Equalities Review
4. Feinstein, L (2003), 'Inequality in the Early Cognitive Development of British Children in the 1970 Cohort', Economica, 70, 277, pp. 73-98.

Media Enquiries; For more information or to arrange interviews please contact: The Children’s Society’s Media Team, Tel: 020 7841 4422 Email: zjm@childsoc.org.uk, mobile: 07810 796508.