Less than one in ten teachers think the Coalition Government’s school reforms introducing more academies and establishing free schools will help improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children, a major survey of teachers has found. The majority of teachers also fear that moves to provide more freedom for schools will lead to greater social segregation across the education system.
The survey of 2,199 teachers at 1,551 primary and secondary schools in England was commissioned by the Sutton Trust and carried out by the NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) last November (Teacher Voice omnibus survey).
Only 8% of teachers agreed with the suggestion that the Government’s reforms as a whole would have the potential to improve educational outcomes for less privileged children. 64% of teachers disagreed with the statement, with 28% strongly opposed to this view.
Teachers in particular oppose the plans for the establishment of free schools set up by parent groups, teachers, charities and other organisations. Only 7% thought that they would provide a better education for less privileged children in the local area, with 63% disagreeing. A very small proportion (also 8%) thought free schools would drive up education standards with 67% disagreeing (30% strongly). 66% thought that free schools would lead to greater social segregation between schools in the local area. Only 8% thought they would not do this.
Teachers were also equally strongly opposed to the Government’s plans to expand the academies programme. 59% of them agreed that pupils from more privileged backgrounds would be more likely to benefit as a result and 69% thought they would lead to greater social segregation. Only 27% thought they would allow schools to focus more time on improving achievement for children.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: ‘Teachers are not only knowledgeable about what is likely to work but they are also the key players in implementing Government reforms and the fact that less than 10% think they will improve outcomes for less privileged children is very serious. Clearly the Government has a lot of work to do to convince teachers who remain fearful that moves to increase school freedoms will actually widen attainment gaps between poorer pupils and their more privileged peers.’
On the pupil premium for disadvantaged pupils, most (55%) teachers agreed it should be of the order of an extra 50% of the normal funding for pupil. This would equate to an extra £3 billion for schools each year, which is higher than £2.5 billion a year set aside in the 2010 Spending Review.
Teachers had mixed views about the checks and balances and incentives to ensure Government reforms benefit all pupils.
Teachers were strongly opposed to a proposal that the school day should be extended to provide approximately 50% more learning time to help disadvantaged children. 77% opposed the idea with only 10% in favour. But they were more divided over the use of random ballots to decide which children should be admitted to over-subscribed schools. 31% agreed with the idea while 41% opposed it. Teachers were also divided on another proposal for priority to be given to children eligible for Free School Meals in schools’ admissions criteria. 27% agreed with 42% disagreeing.
The NFER report, concludes that “In the view of the majority (of teachers), the Government’s drive for school autonomy, whether through the new academies or free schools, could lead to increased social segregation between schools and may not contribute to improved educational outcomes for less privileged children.”
73% of senior leaders compared to 52% of classroom teachers, considered that there was not enough freedom to dismiss poorly performing teachers.