Private schools for free? Parents’ reasons for choosing a new Free School for their child

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


This study examines parental choice preferences following the introduction of the Free Schools policy in England. We report on two phases of data collection: first, the analysis of factors that Free School and non-Free School parents reported as important in informing their choices; and, second, findings from semi-structured interviews with parents of children attending a Free School. The findings show that Free School parents’ choices were mostly influenced by similar factors to parents elsewhere. There were, however, some notable exceptions, particularly in relation to school size, ethos and curriculum. Our analyses also highlight how the lack of information available led parents to use proxies to assess potential academic quality and school suitability for their child. We discuss the tensions that exist for parents in exercising choice within this new context and the implications for school intakes and diversity within the system.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2019


  • Free schools, academies, parents, school choice