School governors have issued the Conservative government with a major vote of no confidence after its first full year in power, according to a landmark survey.
More than three-quarters of governors have given the government’s performance a “negative” rating. Just over half also see the Tories’ first year in power as “very negative”, the joint TES and National Governors’ Association (NGA) research shows.
Less than 7 per cent of school governors support ministers’ ultimate goal of universal academisation, while 85.6 per cent oppose it, according to the survey, which gathered more than 5,000 responses.
Emma Knights, NGA chief executive, said governors were increasingly concerned that ministers’ main focus was on school structures rather than other issues that her members viewed as more pressing.
“There’s a feeling that school funding, leadership recruitment and, increasingly, teacher recruitment have not been high enough up the government’s agenda,” Ms Knights said. “There’s a sense that there has not been enough focus on the serious issues governors are grappling with. Funding is a huge concern for governors. It is top of their list of worries.
“No governor wants to sit on a board that is looking at teacher redundancies and staff restructuring, but that is what they are facing in the coming years.”
The research reveals that:
- Squeezed budgets mean many schools have been forced to shed staff, with further reductions to staff spending expected over the next two years.
- Teacher shortages seem to be getting worse.
- Schools that opt for academy status are not embracing the freedoms it brings in terms of curriculum, and teachers’ pay and conditions.
- Secondary governors are using 11-16 funding to subsidise their sixth forms, as cuts in post-16 budgets bite.
Most damningly, just 12 per cent of school governors have a positive view of the government’s performance in education, the survey finds. Overall, 77.8 per cent of respondents have a negative view, with 52.5 per cent offering a “very negative” verdict – a 21.7 percentage point increase from last year.
A supplementary snap poll by the NGA for TES of nearly a thousand school governors found that 78.2 per cent are opposed to government plans to introduce more selective education. The survey also shows that 82.5 per cent of secondary governors would not introduce selection into their admissions.
The Department for Education spokesperson said that, thanks to government policies, there are now more than "1.4 million children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010".
"We have protected the overall schools budget so that, as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money for our schools – in 2016-17, that will total over £40 billion, the highest on record," a DfE spokesperson added. "Teaching remains a popular career, with the number of teachers entering our classrooms outnumbering those who retire or leave, and we are investing millions of pounds to attract the brightest and best into the profession."
This is an edited article from the 23 September edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here