Friday, February 6, 2009

Parents make moves on top schools

PARENTS are buying houses in areas close to desirable schools and intervening more than ever to ensure their children are positioned for success in their education, University of Sydney research has found.

The belief that bright children will do well at any school has been superseded with distrust in leaving anything to chance.

Anxious middle-class parents have become more proactive in making sure their children enrol in "the best" school, whether measured by academic or cultural standards.

Frustration had displaced any sense of entitlement Anglo-Australians once felt in sending their children to selective high schools, a tradition that could no longer "be handed down along with the family silver". This had given way to resentment with the growing role coaching colleges played in helping students, particularly those from Asian-Australian families, gain selective school entry.

Despite feeling that coaching colleges were beneath them and a form of "cheating", some Anglo-Australian families admitted they had "given in" and commissioned their services, or had drilled their children on past selective school entry test papers, even if only the once.

The findings are based on 1350 surveys and 63 interviews with parents of year 7 students. The researchers, Craig Campbell, Helen Proctor and Geoffrey Sherington, also examined Australian census data from 1976 to 2001 for their new book, School Choice: How Parents Negotiate The New School Market In Australia .

The research highlights a shift in middle-class attitudes towards education as a commodity. Those committed to the public school system felt upset that they were being "forced" into non-government schools because of insufficient government investment in state schools.

Satisfaction with the local school was more common in middle-class areas where some families had moved for no other purpose than securing a school enrolment.

Associate Professor Campbell, from the University of Sydney's faculty of education, said middle-class families interviewed for the project had expressed firm ideas about where their children should go to school. Those with the resources were moving to the catchment areas, such as Sydney's Hills District, to be near reputable public schools. Those who did not were often opting for low-fee Catholic and Christian schools despite having no religious convictions.

PARENTS are buying houses in areas close to desirable schools and intervening more than ever to ensure their children are positioned for success in their education, University of Sydney research has found.

The belief that bright children will do well at any school has been superseded with distrust in leaving anything to chance.

Anxious middle-class parents have become more proactive in making sure their children enrol in "the best" school, whether measured by academic or cultural standards.

Frustration had displaced any sense of entitlement Anglo-Australians once felt in sending their children to selective high schools, a tradition that could no longer "be handed down along with the family silver". This had given way to resentment with the growing role coaching colleges played in helping students, particularly those from Asian-Australian families, gain selective school entry.

Despite feeling that coaching colleges were beneath them and a form of "cheating", some Anglo-Australian families admitted they had "given in" and commissioned their services, or had drilled their children on past selective school entry test papers, even if only the once.

The findings are based on 1350 surveys and 63 interviews with parents of year 7 students. The researchers, Craig Campbell, Helen Proctor and Geoffrey Sherington, also examined Australian census data from 1976 to 2001 for their new book, School Choice: How Parents Negotiate The New School Market In Australia .

The research highlights a shift in middle-class attitudes towards education as a commodity. Those committed to the public school system felt upset that they were being "forced" into non-government schools because of insufficient government investment in state schools.

Satisfaction with the local school was more common in middle-class areas where some families had moved for no other purpose than securing a school enrolment.

Associate Professor Campbell, from the University of Sydney's faculty of education, said middle-class families interviewed for the project had expressed firm ideas about where their children should go to school. Those with the resources were moving to the catchment areas, such as Sydney's Hills District, to be near reputable public schools. Those who did not were often opting for low-fee Catholic and Christian schools despite having no religious convictions.

Sydney Morning Herald

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