Sutton Trust focuses on parent power in new report 

There are pronounced differences in the ways parents from different socioeconomic groups are able to support their child’s education, according to a new report from the Sutton Trust. Parent Power 2018 (which is a follow up to the previous Parent Power report in 2013) examines the cultural and financial resources parents use to boost their children’s chances of educational success.

The report’s findings were based on a survey, conducted by the pollster YouGov, of 1017 parents in England who had children aged 5-16 years who attended school. The parents surveyed were drawn from a range of socioeconomic groups. Additionally 2381 school children, aged 11-16 from schools in England and Wales, were interviewed by the Ipsos Mori polling organisation.

Among the findings were that, when choosing a school for their child, parents from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to attend open days, read Ofsted reports, speak to parents at the school and read league tables. Meanwhile, parents in lower socioeconomic groups were more likely to indicate that the cost of travel, and other potential extra financial costs (e.g. uniforms), were significant when deciding which school to choose for their child. 65 per cent of working class parents cited travel costs as an issue. More than half of working class parents (56 per cent), reported other financial concerns in relation to school choice, compared to 34 per cent in the highest socioeconomic group.

The was also a significant difference in the help with schoolwork children from different backgrounds received outside of school. Parents classified as upper middle class were five times more likely to report that their children had received private tuition, at 31 per cent compared to 6 per cent of working class parents. There was also a significant disparity in the numbers taking part in extra-curricular activities – 84 per cent of upper middle class parents reported their child participating in at least one after school activity or class, compared to 45 per cent of working class parents.

A notable finding was a lack of awareness among parents from all groups of key educational measures. For example. when surveyed just one fifth of parents said they were familiar with Progress 8, the Department for Education’s (DfE) recently introduced headline measure for school league tables. The highest level of awareness was among parents classified as upper middle class, but this was still at just 28 per cent. Likewise, only 47 per cent of parents questioned were aware that a GCSE Grade 9 is higher than a Grade 1, including approaching a third of parents (28 per cent) from the highest socioeconomic group.

Parent Power 2018 makes a number of recommendations about how the inequalities it has identified might be addressed. Among these are that schools should give priority to students in receipt of pupil premium when they have more applicants than places (the Schools Admission Code already allows for pupil premium status to be used as an oversubscription criterion). They also suggest that the government should introduce a means-tested voucher system, funded through the pupil premium, enabling lower income families to purchase additional educational support such as tuition or extra-curricular activities.

Speaking about the report, Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust said, “Parents from all backgrounds and walks of life want to do the best for their children. Those with money, education and confidence are more able to give their children the best possible chance of succeeding”, adding “However, there are some practical measures that can be taken to level the playing field, such as fairer school admissions and providing tuition to those who can’t afford it.”

The full report can be found at:

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April 1, 2019 (PDF 6.94 MB)

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