Middle class parents send their children to struggling comprehensives through self-interest rather than altruistic motives, according to new research.
An academic study of left-leaning, white, middle class parents in urban areas has found that, rather than being inspired by a sense of civic duty or responsibility, they send their children to lower-achieving state schools in the hope of them acquiring new skills.
The parents hope that by becoming adept at mixing with people from different backgrounds, their children will become more employable and "construct new forms of advantage", ultimately improving the family's social status.
The research, White Middle-Class Identities and Urban Schooling, by Gill Crozier, David James and Diane Reay also found the parents displayed anxiety about the "risky" decision.
They tended to become involved in school life to "keep an eye on things", often formulating plans to send their offspring to independent schools in case their "against the grain" decision proved unsuccessful.
They also displayed prejudice against white, working class youngsters, expressing concerns that their children could become "contaminated" by associating with "chavs".
"Although superficially these families might appear to be `acting against self interest', they are in fact doing nothing of the sort," the study says.