Choosing schools in a volatile market

Year: 2001

Author: Groundwater-Smith, Susan

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper discusses a project undertaken in one metropolitan school district within the Department of Education and Training, New South Wales. In the context of the marketisation of schools and the rationalisation of schooling provisions, the study sought to explore the basis upon which caregivers and their children made choices regarding school selection. Three teachers from each of the thirteen state secondary schools in the district were provided with research training regarding the conduct of focus group inquiry. Following a pilot study, which tested the methodology, teachers investigated, using a common procedure, the factors which influenced caregivers and their children in making choices regarding the secondary school the students would attend. A number of factors were rank ordered and clearly indicated that the perception of the school as a safe environment, where student welfare had primacy, and where curriculum choice was available were the first considerations; whereas links to primary schools and travel concerns were relatively unimportant. Other factors, such as the role of the school leader varied. Focus group discussions made clear the ways in which the students themselves were active agents in the making of choices. The paper will present the results of the study and will also discuss the implications for the ways in which schools may present themselves in a competitive educational market. It will also examine ways in which schools can work in concert with one another, across a district ,while still maintaining their own distinctiveness.