From The Times of London:
Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today. They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling. Most of the children “performed brilliantly” at GCSE and A level and 15 per cent of those who went on to university took places at Oxford or Cambridge.
To give their children “the best start in life”, many parents choose to live in catchment areas of high-performing schools, “find God” to gain their child a place at a faith establishment or make financial sacrifices to pay for their child’s independent schooling.
However, the researchers decided to analyse the progress of the offspring of “those white, urban, middle-class parents who consciously choose for their children to be educated at their local state secondary, whatever the league table positioning”.
This group attended average or poorly performing schools in working-class or racially mixed areas. Here they thrived academically and were often given special attention by teachers keen to improve the school’s results, according to the study by professors in education from the universities of Cambridge, Sunderland and West of England (UWE).
The only failure was in social integration, which had been the very reason most parents sent their child to the school. Most children from middle-class families mixed only with pupils from identical backgrounds. The research found “segregation within schools, with white middle-class children clustered in top sets, with little interaction with children from other backgrounds”.
… The researchers interviewed 124 families from London and two other cities. Eighty-three per cent of the parents had degrees and a quarter were educated to postgraduate level. They included three Labour Party activists and two who worked in a social exclusion research unit. In 70 per cent of families, one or both parents worked in the public sector. Most described themselves as left-wing or liberal.
The report found: “Some parents were motivated by a commitment to state-funded education and egalitarian ideals and many had an active dislike for privileged educational routes on the grounds that they were socially divisive. Many wanted their children to have an educational experience that would prepare them for a globalised, socially diverse world. “These parents positioned themselves in a way we termed ‘a darker shade of pale’, as part of a more culturally tolerant and even anti-racist white middle class. …
“Many parents said they could and would pull out if things did not go well,” the report said.
But even though those sending their children to comprehensives were open and tolerant of other backgrounds, in some cases researchers noted “elitism and a sense of intellectual and social superiority — a sense that would be confirmed by their own child’s relative success”.
I suspect that the study may have a selection bias problem -- that parents who "pull out" because peer pressure was turning their little Alister Graham into Ali G aren't as well represented as those whose stuck it out because their kids were more elitist in terms of whom they considered their peers when it came to peer pressure.
I can't find the report online, but here's a little more from the press release:
“Schools were seen to make special efforts to accommodate the children. Parents are very involved with the schools with many taking active roles on school governing bodies. The children often get special attention as they are nurtured by teachers who are keen to give extra help to improve the school's results.Here's the abstract from an earlier paper by the same team:
“Children from these families are very often placed on the Gifted and Talented programmes giving them an advantaged access to resources compared to many children in schools that have better results overall but where there is more competition for the limited places on such schemes.
“Feedback from parents shows that there is a healthy cynicism surrounding league tables. However, our analysis also shows that many of these parents are making a calculated investment which, whilst it feels risky to them, has very high returns because their children tend to be very well supported and to do very well.”
The study also looked at the sorts of advantages that the choice of school seemed to bring. Professor Reay added, “In general we found that parents were keen that their children experienced social diversity though developing friendships with children from a wide spectrum of social and ethnic backgrounds. As one parent put it –“experience of a wide social mix will make my daughter a better doctor”. In this sense the choice of a particular school could be seen to pay dividends in terms of the child's exposure to a wide range of backgrounds, equipping them to be better citizens or professionals in later life. However the study also found that although the children were engaged in a social mix, in general 'social mixing' did not occur and the children mostly formed friendships with the other white middle class children inside and outside their school.
"Drawing on data from interviews with 63 London-based families, this article argues that there are difficult and uncomfortable issues around whiteness in multi-ethnic contexts. Even those parents, such as the ones in our sample, who actively choose ethnically diverse comprehensive schools appear to remain trapped in white privilege despite their political and moral sentiments. This is a complicated question of value; of having value, finding value in, getting value from, and adding value. Even those white middle classes committed to multi-ethnic schooling face the perils of middle-class acquisitiveness, extracting value from, as they find value in, their multi-ethnic `other'. In such processes of generating use and exchange value a majority of both the white working classes and the black working classes, those who are perceived not to share white middle-class values, are residualized and positioned as excessive. Symbolically, they come to represent the abject `other' of no value."
And here's my VDARE article on the contortion the "Prius-driving screenwriter" class in Los Angeles goes through to get their kids into public school magnet programs.