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Low income families miss out on choosing schools

MEDIA RELEASE

MAXIM INSTITUTE

7 FEBRUARY 2006

Report shows low income families miss out on choosing their child’s school

As thousands of children head back to school today, a new report reveals that most New Zealand parents want to choose their child’s school, but under the current system, the ability of parents to select their child’s school (particularly in urban areas), is largely determined by their income.

The report by Maxim Institute, The Parent Factor: Access to Education, is based on independent quantitative research conducted by Colmar Brunton. 1001 parents from throughout New Zealand were surveyed about their views on different aspects of schooling. The key findings of this report are:

- nearly all parents (96 percent) indicated that they would like to select the school their child goes to; and

- most parents (80 percent) agreed that education should be funded in such a way that parents can afford to send their children to the school of their choice; (a higher proportion of parents with an annual income of $30,000 or less, strongly agreed with the statement than parents with an annual income over $30,000).

“Wealthy parents can afford to buy a house in a top school zone or pay private school fees, but parents with low incomes do not have these options and so their children miss out. In a publicly funded education system, income should not be the primary factor which determines which school a child can attend. ‘Selection by mortgage’ is simply unjust”, says Maxim Institute Policy Manager, Nicki Taylor.

“New Zealand parents want the freedom to choose the kind of school they want for their children. It is time that policymakers seriously explored ways to improve New Zealand’s education system so that it more closely reflects the wishes of parents, in particular, the ability to select their child’s school, regardless of income”, says Nicki Taylor.

“We now have a clear message from parents about what they want. The simplicity of the questions asked and the strong affirmative response of parents must bring the starting point for any discussion on education policy back to the relationship between parents and schools”, says Nicki Taylor.

The Parent Factor: Access to Education examines the schooling options available to parents under the current system; research into the effects of policies enabling greater choice; international case studies of different examples of school choice and concludes with some positive policy recommendations which would help make schooling more reflective of what New Zealand parents want.

The full report can be downloaded from Maxim’s website at: www.maxim.org.nz/parentfactor.

ENDS

The report details findings from independent quantitative research conducted by Colmar Brunton for the Maxim Institute. 1001 parents from throughout New Zealand were involved in the research. The data was weighted to census targets for location and ethnicity. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. Maxim Institute can provide a breakdown of data by region, sex, ethnicity and other variables upon request.

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