Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Who should run our schools?

Education will be a key battleground area at the next general election. Each of the main political parties wants to show that they have the right balance of policies which will appeal to the electorate and contribute to improving the nation’s schools.

UNISON, along with teaching union NASUWT recently asked Ipsos-Mori to conduct a public opinion survey on the state of the nations schools. If you want to see the full results of the poll click here, the headline results are below.

  • Most of the public want state-funded schools to be kept public and run by government.

  • Parents and the public generally believe that today’s state-funded schools are of good quality.

  • The public want state-funded schools to be run by local councils/local authorities in preference to any other type of provider, including universities, groups of parents, charities or private companies.

  • Just 4% of the public prefer proposals that would allow state-funded schools to be run by private sector companies.

  • Only 5% of the public prefer the policy proposal advanced by some political parties to establish Free Schools (i.e. state-funded schools run by groups of parents).

  • There is significant opposition to alcohol companies, drugs companies, fast food outlets, tobacco companies and adult entertainment/pornography companies running schools.

  • By 3 to 1 the public oppose allowing state-funded schools to charge parents additional fees to supplement their funding.

  • Parents and the public reject by a ratio of 9 to 1 any increase in autonomy for head teachers. The public want the work of head teachers to be checked and regulated by inspectors, governing bodies, local councils and the Government.
Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON the largest public service union said

This survey blows a great big hole in the Tories education policy. Only 5% thought parents should run state funded schools.

Perhaps instead of looking to Sweden, or the USA, for inspiration, or listening to a mainly London-centric middle class complaining about their local schools, politicians should start listening to the vast majority of parents who want a good local school run by the public sector.

All the political parties need to rethink their policies and place a commitment to democratically run state education at the heart of it.

This survey shows the extent of public support for maintaining a school system that is democratically accountable and where local education authorities continue to play the lead role. Parents, young people and the general public are not persuaded by the concept of ‘independent state schools’, especially if this involves them being run directly by private companies.

Lets hope the politician’s listen.

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