Increasing the Need to Travel? Parental Choiceand Travel to School
STEAD D, University College London and DAVIS A, Adrian Davis Associates, UK
There appears to be a potential conflict between aspects of education policy with transport and environment policy. Over the past decade, education policy in Britain has placed increasing emphasis on parental choice in school selection. Competition betwee
There appears to be a potential conflict between aspects of education policy with transport and environment policy. Over the past decade, education policy in Britain has placed increasing emphasis on parental choice in school selection. Competition between schools for pupils has intensified, particularly through the establishment of Grant Maintained (GM) schools. As a consequence, the concept of school 'catchments' has lessened and increasing numbers of children may now no longer attend their local school.
In contrast, since the early 1990s, environment and transport policy has increasingly focused on reducing the need to travel and reducing the environmental impacts of transport. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETK) favours provision of safe routes for walking and cycling to schools and greater use of public transport in order to reduce the reliance on the ear. The DETR is encouraging local highway authorities to reflect this both in their transport plavning policies and in their annual funding bids to government.
This small-scale study attempts to explore whether education policy, in promoting greater competition between schools, has led to an increase in distance travelled. Five hypotheses are explored in this study:
i) the change to Grant Maintained status has been accompanied by an increase in pupil's travel to school distance.
ii) travel to school distance has increased more for the pupils of Grant Maintained schools than for the pupils of Local Education Authority schools.
iii) the change to Grant Maintained status has also been accompanied by an increase in travel to school distance for pupils of neighbouring schools that are not Grant Maintained.
iv) travel to school distance is lower in local authorities where there are no Grant Maintained schools, than in authorities where there are Grant Maintained schools.
v) the above hypotheses are true in both medium-density and low-density areas.
At present, there is little literature concerning the effects of education policy changes on travel patterns, although research interest is increasing (e.g. Cross & Thomthwalte, 1997; Beuret & Camara, 1998; Flood, 1998).
The limited number of schools included in the survey means that the study can claim to be little more than a scoping exercise. This study can only therefore lay the foundations for further research on the subject with a larger sample of schools in more areas. The data does allow, however, for anecdotal evidence to be explored and some tentative conclusions to be made.
The study does not seek to make any assessment relating to socio-economic determinants in parental choice of schools although this is likely to be important for a number of reasons. Car ownership is an important determinant of school travel mode, and is generally indicative of socio-ecunomic status and educational qualifications of parents, which are important determinants of whether parents drive their children to school and these may also be largely independent of distance to school (Davis, 1998).
Association for European Transport