Transport problems and distance from home are the main reasons that parents cite for rejecting secondary schools - but the social backgrounds and race of pupils are other crucial factors.
Researchers who interviewed 81 parents in different parts of the country - a town, an inner-urban area and a semi-rural location - found that three-quarters would not send their children to one or more schools in their area.
Transport difficulties were mentioned by 51 per cent of these parents though it was a bigger issue for rural families than urban ones.
Inner-urban parents were most concerned about the social background of a school's pupils and a third of them cited race as a reason for rejecting a school. "There's no way that I'd want my child to go to that school because of the coloured children," one mother told researchers, Dr Carl Bagley and Dr Philip Woods. "I think there's too many. I'm not prejudiced but I think they cater more for them than they do for English kids."
But there were several other reasons for rejecting schools. A quarter of the town parents said they did not want single-sex or denominational schools. The headteacher or staff could also act as a turn-off.
"Some of these heads can be quite pompous," one mother said. "He got up on the platform and he was preaching about facts and figures ... there seemed no mention of the child's personal feelings."
"Rejecting schools: towards a fuller understanding of the process of parental choice", by Carl Bagley, Staffordshire University, and Philip Woods, Open University. Information from Dr Bagley 01782-294861 or e-mail: email@example.com