MORE than eight in 10 people think parents should send their children to the nearest state school, research has found. The British Social Attitudes Survey asked around 2,000 people about a parent’s “right to choose” and found that attitudes were ambivalent. While a large majority favoured children attending their local state school, 68% agreed parents should have a right to choose their child’s school. And half of those polled said parents have a duty to choose “the best possible” school for their child, even if other schools in the local area might suffer. Study leader Dr Sonia Exley, of the London School of Economics and Political Science, said the difference showed that parents do not necessarily want to make choices over schools. She said: “People believe they ought to have a ‘right to choose’, particularly where they are not happy with their local school. “However, public feeling also seems to be that if schools were of an equal, acceptable standard, then choice wouldn’t be necessary. Parents don’t necessarily want to have to make active choices in order to secure a good school for their child; they just want their nearest school to be good enough. “Government promotion of choice as an agenda diverts attention away from the bigger issue of why this isn’t the case.” In terms of priorities, only 4% thought that making sure “parents have a lot of choice about the kind of school their child goes to” should be the number one concern for schools. And when it comes to choosing a secondary school, 69% believe that parents ought to put the needs and interests of their own child first. However, 60% also believe parents ought to balance this concern against the needs and interests of other children. The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, also found that 67% of people approve of parents paying for a private tutor to help their children pass school entrance exams. But only 36% approve of parents moving house in order to be nearer “better schools” and only 16% approve of parents becoming involved in religious activities to help get their children into faith schools. Overall, 38% believe families who can afford it should be able to pay for a better education.