'Rich children are already bussed to top schools - but in people carriers'

October 28, 2005

Government plans to give schools more freedom to run their own affairs should not overshadow the help that poor parents need to pick the right school for their child, an economist who has advised the Government warned this week.

The day before the Government published its White Paper on education this week, Simon Burgess, professor of economics at Bristol University, presented the findings of research on the economics of parental choice to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit.

Under the Government's plans, all primary and secondary schools will be turned into "self-governing independent state schools" and encouraged to acquire trusts with the power to control admissions policies and teachers'

pay and conditions.

Asked about the White Paper, Professor Burgess said: "I would want to see more emphasis being placed on support for poorer families to make choices."

Professor Burgess and his colleagues at the Centre for Market and Public Organisation conclude that parents already exercise choice - only half of all secondary school pupils attend their nearest school.

His team has also reported that the furore about "bussing" poor children to schools in wealthy areas has obscured the fact that affluent families transport their children to the best schools "but in people carriers rather than big yellow buses".

Professor Burgess, who joined Bristol in 1987, said his work "has always been about the unemployed, the poor and low-achievers in school".

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