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
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: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable