Education changes 'fail to satisfy most parents'

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The Independent Online
ONLY 24 PER CENT of parents think recent changes in the education system have improved standards and nearly half say they have not, according to a Mori poll published today.

The poll for Reader's Digest shows that 4 per cent of parents 'strongly agree' that the changes have led to improvements, and 20 per cent 'tend to agree'. But 34 per cent 'tend to disagree' and 15 per cent 'strongly disagree'. Women (27 per cent) are more likely to agree than men (19 per cent). Parents in the North and Midlands (28 and 26 per cent respectively) are more likely than those in the South (17 per cent) to agree.

Tory supporters (36 per cent) are more likely to agree that the education system has improved, compared with Labour (21 per cent) and Liberal Democrat (19 per cent). 'It is clear these changes have not gained the full support of parents,' Mori says.

Nevertheless, the poll shows that state education receives high marks - 83 per cent of parents with children at state secondary schools are satisfied with their education, compared with 74 per cent when the question was asked in a similar survey in 1987. Current satisfaction with primary schools receives an even higher rating at 86 per cent.

The percentage of parents who say they are very satisfied has increased since 1987 from 23 to 42 per cent.

In June and July Mori interviewed, face-to-face, 462 parents who had children aged five or older in state schools. There is high support (74 per cent) for nationally approved tests, at regular intervals, for secondary school pupils. But there is less enthusiasm for primary school tests - 50 per cent agree and 34 per cent disagree. Conservatives (64 per cent) are more likely to agree than Labour (46).

Eighty-nine per cent of parents agree that primary school children should be tested regularly on their reading - working-class parents (92 per cent) are more likely to agree with these tests than middle- class parents (84 per cent). On exam results, 58 per cent said that schools should be made to publish results (29 per cent disagreed).

Several questions in the survey produced sharp differences between the sexes - 74 per cent of women regard secondary education as equipping children for success in life, but only 56 per cent of men agree and one in four men disagrees.

Seventy-nine per cent of women approve of discipline in secondary schools, but only 61 per cent of men, and one in four is actively dissatisfied. On the way sex education is taught in secondary schools the figures are women 73 per cent and men 55 per cent. - State education - what parents want; Mori, 95 Southwark Street, London SE1 OHX.