Who should run State Schools?

Who should run state schools? A new survey commissioned by two trade unions, NASUWT: The Teachers’ Union and Unison, has posed just that question. It was conducted by Ipsos MORI who interviewed a representative sample of 1,211 adults aged 15 and over in England face-to-face in their homes on 5-11 March 2010.

The sample was asked to consider the idea that ‘more schools in the future could be run directly by private companies, religious groups, charities or groups of parents rather than being run by the local council as they generally are now’.

When quizzed which would be the most appropriate group to run state-funded schools, 62% replied that it should be local authorities and 14% universities or colleges. Only 4% suggested religious organizations, with the highest percentage among demographic sub-groups being 15% for parents whose children attended a private school. The next highest figure in favour of religious organizations was the 7% recorded for those aged 65 and over, Londoners and readers of broadsheet newspapers.

When the question was inverted, and respondents were asked which group should not run state-funded schools, religious organizations headed the list at 35%, closely followed by private companies (34%) and groups of parents (32%). The opposition to religious organizations was never an actual majority for any particular sub-group, but it did exceed  40% for single people, those aged 15-24, middle income earners, those who considered the standard of state education to be relatively poor, and residents of East Midland, Eastern, North-Eastern and South-Western counties.

It should be noted that the answers in respect of religious groups should not be confused with attitudes to what are popularly known as faith schools, which remain maintained schools generally drawing their recurrent funding from the local authority. The principal conclusion of the poll is that most people want state schools to remain under direct state control, rather than their management to be ‘privatized’ in some way. However, it is significant that, of the various ‘privatization’ options, management by religious organizations is one of the least attractive with the public.  

Detailed computer tabulations of results from this poll will be found at:


British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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