The limits of 'choice': children and inner city schooling

D Reay, Helen Lucey

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148 Citations (SciVal)


This paper attempts to retheorize school 'choice'; to begin to unpack dominant contemporary misconceptions through an examination of the 'choices' available to 454 inner city 10 and 11 year-olds engaging in the process of primary-secondary school transfer in England. The prevalent focus within educational theorizing on 'choice' as a form of agency often masks the fact that 'choice' is a marker of economic privilege. The more distant subjects are from economic necessity the more `choice' becomes a possibility. In contrast, the majority of children in our research study had no 'choice' but to make a virtue out of necessity. They were forced to accept the least bad option. Particularly disadvantaged were the large numbers of refugees in the sample and those children, cutting across class and ethnicity, who chose 'against the grain'. We conclude that school 'choice' is an issue of power and constraint, of class and racial processes, although the possibilities of 'choice' cannot in any straightforward way be seen as conterminous with class positioning, implicating, as it does, both ethnicity and fractions and differences within classes as well as between them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-142
Number of pages22
JournalSociology-the Journal of the British Sociological Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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