‘Significant number of respondents’ unhappy about selection says long-overdue consultation results

Janet Downs's picture
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It’s dated March 2017 but it wasn’t published until today - the Ipsos-MORI analysis of the consultation about Schools that Work for Everyone which closed in December 2016.  

The  findings are summarised below:

Just About Managing – respondents were ‘broadly’ in favour of better support for disadvantaged pupils not qualifying for free schools meals (FSM).  It was widely recognised that criteria used for FSM were ‘too narrow’ to identify those ‘just about managing’. 

Independent schools – a ‘large number of respondents from a wide range of organisations’ objected to the existence of independent schools and their charitable status.  Other respondents were concerned that not all independent schools had relevant expertise to become involved in supporting state schools.

University support for schools and in further education was ‘broadly welcomed’ but not all respondents thought formal academy sponsorship should have priority over other ways of engaging with schools such as outreach and mentoring schemes.  A ‘large number of respondents’ expressed concern that university staff didn’t have the required skills to establish or sponsor academies.

Selective schools – a number of suggestion were received about how support for new or expanding grammar schools could be achieved including increasing funding to support expansion.  Respondents were ‘most favourable’ towards requiring new or expanding selective schools to take a proportion of disadvantaged pupils. 

But the comments above should not be viewed as overwhelming support for selection.  The analysis made it clear that ‘a significant number of respondents’ raised concerns about selection

Faith schools – there were ‘mixed views’ about whether the requirements outlined in the consultation were ‘effective alternatives’ to the rule expecting new free schools to admit 50% of their pupils without reference to faith.  Respondents suggested other ways to ensure faith schools offered a diverse multi-faith education including inspections and a mandatory mixed-faith curriculum.   Some respondents expressed opposition to faith schools per se.  Some respondents highlighted the ‘merits of mixed-faith schooling’ as a way to promote diversity and of improving understanding of and respect for all faiths.

Author’s comments

It is unacceptable that the analysis which was completed over twelve months ago has not been published until today.  This is especially true given the significant opposition to the most controversial of the proposals – the expansion of selection.

EXTRA 19.23.  Schools Week has published a longer summary which includes what I missed in the short article above.

CAVEAT – the analysis pointed out that ‘consultation samples are not representative of public opinion’.  That’s because respondents are self-selected and not properly weighted.  The analysis also said ‘the intention of the consultation was to explore how best to achieve the stated policy aims through seeking views on each proposal.’  In other words, the consultation’s aim was not to discover opinions about the proposals but to seek approval. 

As noted at the time, the consultation questions were biased and assumed acceptance.  During the consultation period, the Department for Education was censured by the UK Statistics Watchdog for tweeting dodgy data.    The DfE was also forced to issue a belated data clarification three days before the consultation ended.   But even after the bias and the spinning, the DfE didn't have the courage to publish the consultation results until today.

NOTE: The DfE has published a response.  I shall comment on this tomorrow. 

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