“Free schools” get reserved support

As the new Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, shifts Labour?s stone on ?free schools?, and Nick Clegg takes a pot shot at the government?s flagship education policy, the latest addition to the UK?s education system is in the spotlight at Westminster.

Broadly speaking, ?free schools? have been received well by the public. 44% of likely English voters think free schools are good thing for education in the UK, and only half as many (22%) think that they are a bad development. Although there is some partisan difference, supporters of all the main political parties seem more or less positive about free schools.Unsurprisingly, the least supportive of free schools are Labour voters who are more divided, with 39% thinking free schools are good and 30% bad.imageAlthough the public may give tentative support to free schools, some of the detail of the policy is met by worry rather than support. A key plank of the present free school policy is that they can employ teaching staff that do not have a PGCE. A clear majority (60%) say they are concerned that that free schools are able to hire unqualified teachers, with only 30% not concerned. Even Conservative voters are more concerned than not (52% to 39%), suggesting worries over unqualified teachers is something Labour could exploit politically.This can be seen when the choice was given between various future policy options. While 23% said that the government?s present policy should carry on, slightly more (27%) said that free schools should continue but with the changes touted by the opposition ? namely only employing teachers with PGCE?s and only allowing free schools in areas with a shortage of places.Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 1,634 likely voters. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria. The research was conducted from 15th to 18th October 2013.