Parents critical of Government’s education policies, YouGov poll reveals

Janet Downs's picture
Despite all the hype, the Government seems to be losing the battle to persuade parents that academy status will improve education. A YouGov survey on behalf of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) found that only 14% definitely agreed that academy status would result in improvement. 55% did not while 31% said they didn’t know.

Gove’s supporters might be cynical about results from a survey commissioned by a teacher union but they should remember the NUT didn’t do the survey. Instead, it asked an independent polling company with a good reputation to do it.

So, what else did the YouGov survey find?

Unqualified teachers in state schools

Allowing publicly-funded schools to hire unqualified teachers received a thumbs-down. 80% of parents agreed schools should only employ qualified teachers.

National Curriculum

35% of parents thought teachers should be allowed to exercise professional judgement. 59% thought teachers should be allowed professional judgement but within a national curriculum framework. Only 2% thought that politicians should be able to prescribe what teachers taught on a day-to-day basis.

Teachers’ Pay

60% of parents thought there should be a national system. 25% thought schools should be able to set their own pay while 15% didn’t know.

For-profit schools

Parents were overwhelmingly against state schools being run for profit with 84% saying No. Only 6% said Yes and 10% replied that they didn’t know.

Academies’ exemption from national food standards

75% of parents were also emphatically against academies and free schools being exempt from national food standards which other state schools have to follow.

Proposed conversion of primary schools into academies. Whose views should be taken into account? (Parents were allowed 2 responses). Results in descending order:

Parents: 76%

Teachers: 68%

Pupils: 16%

Local Authority: 16%

Central Government: 5%

None of these: 4%

Free schools

Only 18% thought free schools would drive up standards in all schools. But 41% disagreed and 10% didn’t know. 31% had no view either way.

56% of parents disagreed with free schools being allowed to set up anywhere even if there are already surplus places locally. 18% thought this was acceptable while 21% neither agreed/disagreed.

Parents weren’t keen on the children of free school proposers being prioritised in admission arrangements. 51% disagreed with this prioritisation. Only 19% definitely thought it was OK while 24% had no opinion.

And 70% of parents thought that allowing free schools to employ non-qualified teaching staff was designed to save money, not improve teaching standards.

Coalition Policy

Only a minority of parents (19%) thought the Coalition’s academies and free schools programme was taking education in England in the right direction. 45% replied it wasn’t while 36% said they didn’t know. Parents had a similarly negative opinion of the Coalition’s impact on the education system. Only 8% were positive, 33% thought the Coalition had made no difference, 15% didn’t know and 44% thought the Government’s impact had been negative.

Politicians’ opinion of teachers

53% of parents thought that politicians (no particular party was mentioned) were critical of teachers. Only 14% thought politicians valued and respected teachers’ work. 33% of parents answered “neither of these” for this question but it’s unclear from this response whether parents thought politicians were uncritical, merely indifferent or neutral.


When asked about examinations, 60% of parents thought GCSEs provided pupils with a good breadth and depth in a range of subjects. Only 21% agreed the best way to judge children’s academic achievement was a 3 hour end of course exam with no coursework or assessment: 61% thought this sudden-death, terminal exam was not the best way (16% had no view either way).

Opinion was divided about whether there should be less emphasis on exams at 16 now the participation age had been raised to 18. 38% thought there should be less emphasis, 37% did not agree the emphasis should be reduced and 22% were undecided.

Who would parents trust to deliver their child’s education? (Parents were allowed 2 responses). In descending order:

59% said Heads.

58% said Teachers.

16% said Local Authorities.

13% said Governors of their child’s school.

6% said Academy Chains.

6% said Michael Gove.

So, despite all the propaganda churned out by the Government and its supporters, all Gove’s fiery speeches and bellicose articles, all the negative blogs in certain sections of the media, it appears that parents aren’t convinced.


*The Poll also covered attitudes towards the phonics screening check and what parents thought were essential facilities in school buildings. These are not covered above.

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