13 April 2007

A discussion paper on diversity in secondary education and parents’ views on it by Professor John Coldron, Centre for Education Research and Social Inclusion at Sheffield Hallam University, has been published today on the RISE website.

The Government has introduced a number of policies to increase diversity. The addition of Trust schools and Academies to the existing Foundation, Voluntary Aided and Community schools encourages a greater range of providers and increases the diversity of types of school. The great increase in the number of specialist schools is intended to offer diversity of curriculum emphasis to meet the needs of children with particular aptitudes. The endorsement of faith schools is a means of offering differing moral and religious contexts for education. The 14 to 19 White Paper (DfES 2005) aims to differentiate both structure and curriculum with sixth form colleges leading on general/academic provision and Further Education Colleges leading on vocational and skills provision. The commitment to choice and diversity is clear in the Further Education and Training Bill (DfES 2006).

The paper identifies different kinds of diversity – structural, educational and compositional (diversity of intake). Evidence as to how much of these kinds of diversity parents are likely to experience currently is examined. In concluding Professor Coldron says:

'I start from the position that providing room for people to have a say in what happens to them is in most parts of life a good thing and that diversity enriches society and the quality of experience and debate while uniformity tends to impoverish. My concern is that the current policies promoting choice and diversity in education borrow legitimacy from this common sense position but on closer inspection lack coherence and the claims about what people want are at best simplistic and at worst wrong.'

The paper raises questions as to the logistics of choice and diversity. It asks the question – do parents want more choice and diversity? The paper concludes with questions for future research.

RISE is inviting comments on this paper by email to the RISE correspondent – Libby Goldby.

RISE aims are to commission research and provide information on state education. RISE reports have covered many issues of particular interest to parents e.g. class size, school reports, home-school agreements, parental involvement in OFSTED inspections, school complaints procedures, specialist schools, parent governor representatives and school admissions.

Read summary or download full report