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The Sutton Trust report on how parents behave to get children into their chosen school.

The Sutton Trust report on how parents behave to get children into their chosen school.

In 2013 the Sutton Trust published Parent Power?a landmark piece of work authored by Prof Becky Francis and Prof Merryn Hutchings demonstrating how social class influences parents’ ability to support their children in their schooling. Five years later Parent Power 2018 revisits the cultural and financial resources parents use to boost their children’s chances of educational success.




  • When choosing what school to send their child to, parents with higher socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to attend open days, read Ofsted reports, speak to parents at the school, read league tables and consult local authority or other education websites.
  • Parents in lower socioeconomic groups were more likely to indicate that the cost of travel, and potential extra financial costs such as uniforms, played a significant role in their decision making. Over half of working class parents (56%), compared to 34% of professional parents.
  • Just one in five parents (20%) reported that they were familiar with Progress 8, the Department for Education’s new headline measure for school league tables.
  • Parents in higher socioeconomic groups were much more likely to report a variety of strategies to gain access to their preferred school, such as moving to an area with good schools or to a specific catchment, along with employing private tutors for entrance tests.
  • Almost 1 in 3 (30%) of parents from higher socioeconomic backgrounds personally knew a parent who used ethically dubious strategies, such as buying or renting a second home in a catchment area, or using a relative’s address to gain access to a particular school.
  • Parents from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were five times more likely to report that their children had received private tuition. 31% of professional parents, compared to 6% of working class parents.
  • Two in five (39%) of school leaders say that extra financial contributions requested by their school have increased in the last two years. This is reflected in the views of parents, with half of parents (49%) say their school has asked them for an extra financial contribution in the last twelve months. Schools across the socioeconomic spectrum are facing substantial budgetary challenges, but those with more affluent parents are able to draw on those financial resources as a buffer, with higher class parents more likely to report they had been asked for contributions.
  • Young people from professional households were more likely to take part in extracurricular activities. This reflects cultural capital, but also financial resources in the home, as those in lower social groups were more likely to take part in activities that didn’t need to be paid for, 25% of working class parents, compared to 20% of professional parents.


Read the full report.


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