School choice from a household resource perspective: Preliminary findings from a north of England case study

Helen Jarvis, Seraphim Alvanides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper seeks to widen the conceptual lens of school choice debate and analysis to account for multiple, intersecting economies, cultures, and infrastructures of daily life. Preliminary findings are presented in the case of primary school enrolment in the north of England city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The national context is one in which public service delivery has been influenced by the language of ‘choice’, notably a parent's ‘right to choose’ a school other than that nearest to their child's home, and ‘responsibility’ to exercise choice as self-determined consumer-citizens. At the metropolitan level this translates as market-led competitive enrolment and a tendency for more children to travel longer distances to school and for there to be greater variation in journey length, as some parents are able to use superior transport and personnel as leverage in their quest for a better choice of state school. Findings are presented from a multi-method pilot study combining daily diary, resource audit, and biographic analysis for a sample of 18 families drawn from two case study schools. One school (Town) attracts pupils from an area of low-income population, to which most children journey on foot; the other school (Woodland) attracts pupils from further away, situated within a largely middle-class area, to which most children are driven in their parent's car. The findings show how the market model assumes and rewards a particular mode of choice-making which fails to recognise that some parents seek less instrumentally for their child to be happy. Discussion combines theory, empirical findings, and critical analysis to expose the subtle inequities of school choice in relation to neo-liberal thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-403
JournalCommunity, Work & Family
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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