School choice and equality of opportunity

The schools that pupils attend have a significant impact on their educational experience, academic performance, and future life chances.

Since 1988, parents in England have been able to choose a school for their child. This parental choice is similarly well established in many other countries. However, despite its political popularity, parental choice of school and its effects is a somewhat contested field.

This study will review a wide body of international research to explore how choice-based school admissions policies affect the allocation of pupils across schools. It will focus on the extent to which school choice promotes equality of opportunity in terms of access to different types of secondary school for children from different backgrounds.

This will be an ‘integrative review’, encompassing both the empirical and the theoretical literature with the aim of providing clarity to a contested problem.

The overall aim is to inform policy and practice around equality of opportunity in education, by clarifying what evidence is already available and where the gaps in the evidence base are.

Project details



Prof. Deborah Wilson, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Grant amount and duration:


September 2016 – September 2017