By Claire West
A YouGov survey commissioned by the National Union of Teachers of 1021 parents in the 22 local authorities where the proposed 25 Free Schools are scheduled to open shows a clear rejection of the Government's flagship education proposal.
78% of parents believed that children in Free Schools should only be taught by qualified teachers and an even higher number, 81%, believed that the headteacher should hold a teaching qualification. Parents also are very clear about the facilities they expect in schools. 83% of parents wanted libraries, 86% an outdoor play area, 78% dining halls, and 69% kitchens. With Free Schools being able to set up in shops, offices and factories, many will not have the space to provide such amenities.
Over half (52%) believed that the Local Authority was the best option for running schools while only 15% believed that private companies should be allowed to run schools. 72% of parents thought free schools should follow the national curriculum.
The vast majority of parents surveyed are happy with the standard of education their children receive. Overall only 20% believed Free Schools would raise standards and 46% of parents felt there was no need for a new school in their area. Where parents indicated that a new school was needed it was on the grounds of a lack of school places or proximity to a school, not because they were unhappy with the quality of current schools.
So much for transparency and parents being given ample time to consult on proposals. A staggering 76% of parents were completely unaware that a Free School was planned in their area. Of those who were aware of plans the biggest source of information came from local newspapers, 52% compared to just 16% from their child's current school or 13 % by a newsletter or leaflet.
Support for Free Schools was much higher amongst private school parents than state school parents, as was the support for private sector companies to run schools.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said;
"This survey clearly shows that parents are not clamouring to set up free schools, have no issue with schools being accountable to the community through democratically elected local authorities and absolutely reject the premise of their children's education being handed over to private companies.
"Free Schools are not wanted or needed. They are divisive and unaccountable. The teaching profession and parents know this. It is time the Government stopped playing with the educational future of this country based on nothing more than the fact they can".