The PSI Blog


People like us: primary schools and social mix in London
Kim Vowden

Research into parents' secondary-school choices suggests that many middle-class parents are keen to secure a middle-class peer group for their children. This article by PSI’s Kim Vowden reports the findings of a small-scale, qualitative study into whether a similar phenomenon exists at primary-school level and, if so, why.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 56 middle-class parents of pre-school children in inner London. Respondents often had contradictory impulses. Nearly all liked the idea of a socially mixed school but many associated the 'wrong' mix with various risks. Some of these perceived risks are familiar from previous studies. Others are less familiar, such as the fear among respondents that they themselves might not 'fit in' at their children's school.

The types of intake which respondents preferred fell into three overlapping categories: children from 'pro-school' families, children at a similar level of achievement to respondents' own children and 'people like us'. Respondents' judgements about whether children and families fell into these categories were based in part on ideas about class, ethnicity and language.

Respondents gravitated toward schools where most children were perceived to come from middle-class, white, English-speaking backgrounds. The article argues that attitudes towards children learning English as an additional language need to receive greater attention in future research.

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