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Attitudes towards School Choice and Faith Schools in the UK: A Question of Individual Preference or Collective Interest?



As has been the case in a number of countries, parents in England have increasingly been given the opportunity to choose between different types of schools. Doing so is regarded as a way of meeting individual needs and improving academic standards. Faith-based schools long predate this move towards a more diversified educational system, but have come to be regarded as one of the ways of fulfilling the recent agenda. Drawing on social identity theory, we suggest that attitudes towards faith-based schools reflect social (religious) identities and group interests associated with those identities rather than beliefs about the merits of individual choice. We demonstrate this is the case using data from all four parts of the UK. However, the extent to which attitudes towards faith-based schools are a reflection of religious identities varies across the four parts in line with the structure of the religious economy and educational provision locally. We conclude that rather than reflecting a supposedly a-social concern with choice, support for diversity of educational provision may be rooted instead in collective – and potentially antagonistic – social identities.


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