In my view: Hands off state schools

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Who should be running our schools?

This question is at the centre of the debate on education in the run-up to the general election. All political parties, to a greater or lesser degree, are dabbling with placing schools in the hands of private providers or other external organisations.

The NASUWT and Unison felt that it was important to obtain the perspective of the public on this critical question and commissioned Ipsos Mori to undertake a poll of a cross-section of the public.

My belief has always been that, despite the fascination of politicians with structural change and outsourcing public services, the public was at best sceptical, if not completely opposed. The response to our poll was clear: state-funded schools should be kept public, run by local councils/local authorities, in preference to any other type of provider, including universities, groups of parents, charities or private companies. Seventy-nine per cent of parents think that their own children's school is good and a majority think that state education is generally good, with only a small number (19 per cent) thinking it is poor.

The overwhelming majority of the public (96 per cent) reject any proposals that would allow state-funded schools to be run by private sector companies, and 95 per cent of voters oppose 'free schools' - state-funded schools run by groups of parents.

The results of the poll send a powerful message to all political parties. All now need to rethink their policies. The main casualty, however, is the Conservative Party policy on free schools, the central plank of its education policy, which is now left in tatters by this poll, showing that they are completely out of touch with the electorate.

The public wants democratically accountable state schools held and managed in trust for them, and so does the NASUWT.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union in the UK.

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