Education Jun 23 2010

Most parents happy with their children’s schools

Guess what?  You won’t read it in the papers but most parents are happy with their children’s schools.

A research review, carried out by RISE (Research and Information in State Education), looked at evidence gathered over three years, covering over 20,000 parents.The vast majority (over 90%) were satisfied with their children’s schools and over three quarters very satisfied. Most parents also thought their children were happy and making progress

The review also looked at what parents want and the results were clear too – many parents value good discipline, the quality of teaching and their child’s happiness more than academic results. They want to be involved in their children’s schools and appreciate clear, accessible and regular information about their children’s’ progress. And in spite of the recent Key Stage 2 test boycott, most parents accept that there is a need for some form of standardised testing in primary school, although are concerned about the stress tests may cause. Only parents of children with Special Educational Needs were marginally less satisfied with their children’s education.

The majority of parents thought they had a choice of good local schools and proximity to home was the most important factor when it came to exercising that choice, although socially advantaged parents were more likely to choose a school with better academic performance and to consider the social background of other pupils. Equally parents from lower socio-economic groups appeared less likely to apply to schools in more socially advantaged areas.

In spite of headlines that scream about the lack of ‘good’ school places, over 80% of parents routinely get their children into their first choice of school, although this figure falls to around 60 % in urban areas like London and Birmingham, where the schools ‘market’ is active and more schools use selective entry tests.  Many parents reported being satisfied with the school their children went to, even if it was the second choice.

Are there lessons for the politicians here? Undoubtedly. Creating good local schools with socially and academically balanced intakes should be a priority, along with investment in good heads and teachers and home school links, especially using IT that can help working families who can’t always make it to the school gate.

2 Responses to “Most parents happy with their children’s schools”

  1. Ppapertest says:

    This also suggests that the proposed school reforms (free schools!) are treating a problem that doesn't exist. The demand from parents isn't for upheaval and structural change (nor do they want to set up their own schools in any significant number). Instead, we need the debate to focus on how we turn the 'good school' into 'great school'.

    There's a few posts on free schools on my blog for anyone who's interested:

  2. ebbioblog says:

    If we are to argue against Free Schools, then we have a responsibility to ensure our arguments are credible. There are two decisions to be made on school performance. Is it below a minimum standards and is it as good as it could be? The latter question is a highly technical one and is not one which broad parent satisfaction can greatly inform. It's actually a hard enough questions for the specialists to answer …. more later on that.

    The argument that Free Schools are undemocratic is a little tenuous in that anyone could run them. If you want schools that you deem are fair – run them – out perform more selective schools – and win the debate. One demand of democracy is that you have to take part and Free Schools does put those who prefer to comment as opposed to do, to the sword a little bit. Granted this is an over simplification, but if the aim is to convince others of the dangers of free schools, the anti- democratic argument is never going to appeal to the 'get on your bike/ little government' believers. Standing around agreeing with each other about how right we are is student union politics – not pluralist.

    Perhaps a better counterargument is to identify that establishing 'outstanding' performance in schools is very, very difficult and there is a lot of debate which seems to indicate that Ofsted are better at spotting failure then they are diagnosing degrees of success. If Ofsted can't measure what they attempt to measure – then Free Schools are an unacceptable risk by any measure. You could be letting an exam factory loose without any restrictions!

    Checks and balances require ongoing realignment but in something as important and elusive as education they are necessary. The 'each-way' bet here was to review Ofsted and LA performance and not throw away the safety-net …. very risky.

    There is no job sitting exams and employers seem to be clearly saying that they don't see the performances that the exams have predicted. It can't be just about exams. Success in education is very difficult define so it's just bad risk management to remove a cogent voice in the discussion – better odds to just make them better.

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