Education under fire: fears over teaching standards push parents to private sector

More parents than ever before would send their children to private schools if they could afford it, research suggests.

Fears about poor discipline, standards and constant meddling with the curriculum prompted 57 per cent of parents to say they would consider removing their child from the state sector, an Ipsos MORI poll concluded. The proportion is the highest since the research group first asked the question in 1997, and significantly higher than the last poll in 2004, which found that 48 per cent of parents would consider private education.

Among Labour voters this year, 54 per cent of parents said they would consider educating a child privately – up from just 41 per cent in 2004. Fears about falling standards and poor discipline were the main factors given for their change of heart, the survey for the Independent Schools Council (ISC) found.

The number of parents who argue that fee-paying schools uphold "moral standards" has almost doubled – with 9 per cent saying this has affected their attitude towards private schools. The findings follow statistics which showed record numbers of children at independent schools this year, despite 11 years of initiatives and billions of pounds of investment by Labour to improve the state system.

Jane Robinson, who led the poll, said: "It would suggest there has been a shift in attitude and perception towards the independent sector in a positive direction. The shift has come primarily from those people who were previously undecided or who had a neutral opinion.

"What hasn't changed is the proportion of parents who said they would not send their children to an independent school, which stands at 36 per cent."

Some private school headteachers claimed parents were afraid that children were no longer safe in the state sector, where behaviour was getting worse, while ministerial "tinkering" since 1997 had damaged education.

Vicky Tuck, the head of Cheltenham Ladies' College and President of the Girls' Schools Association, said: "It is just endless change and initiatives and remodelling and reshaping. I think people by nature do not like change."

Deborah Odysseas-Bailey, the head of Babington House School in Chislehurst, Kent, and chairman of the Independent Schools Association, said educational change in state schools was moving "at a pace some parents are unsure of". "The independent sector provides continuity in a politically changing climate," she added. "When I speak to my parents, I know some of them work really jolly hard to send their children to my school. They do it because they are just not quite sure about the direction the Government is moving in."

Pru Jones, head of research at the ISC, said there was widespread confusion about plans for new diplomas to be taken alongside GCSEs and A-levels and whether the qualifications would survive if the Tories won power. "Parents see the independent sector as offering stability in an environment where educational changes seem to be announced pretty much every week," she said.

Last night, a spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families defended the state sector, saying: "Parents are free to send their children to whatever kind of school they choose, but we are confident that free, state education is better than it has ever been and is continuing to improve."

Ipsos MORI questioned 2,000 adults, 600 of them parents.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence