Labour comes top when independent-school teachers are asked which party has the best education policies, with support from nearly a third of the sector, a Tes poll reveals.
The finding is likely to surprise some, given the party’s publicly stated antipathy towards private schools.
But the threats of a clampdown on the sector also failed to prevent some 30 per cent of its teachers saying they would vote Labour next month. The party finished narrowly behind the Lib Dems, who were top in the poll with 32 per cent.
The results were drawn from a survey of nearly 12,000 teachers from all sectors carried out last week before yesterday's launch of the Labour general election manifesto, which renewed fears among independent school leaders.
But Labour had already said that it would impose VAT on school fees – a move some fear will force smaller private schools to close. And at the party’s annual conference in September, members voted to abolish private schools altogether.
Nonetheless, when asked to name the party with the best education policies, 30 per cent of independent-school teachers surveyed named Labour.
The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives followed at 20 per cent each, while nearly one in four private-school teachers surveyed said they did not know which party had the best education policies.
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The Tes poll included responses from 2,300 private-school teachers.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Labour’s policy of charging VAT on private-school fees would leave smaller schools “in peril” due to the risk of pupils leaving. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had already confirmed that the policy would be included in Labour’s manifesto.
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On top of Labour’s announcements on private schools, the party has said that it will scrap Ofsted and abolish key stage 2 Sats, and bring academies under local control.
The Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto yesterday, with a promise to increase spending on schools by £10 billion per year by 2024-25, and increase the number of teachers by 20,000. Like Labour, the party wants to get rid of Ofsted and primary school Sats.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have pledged to raise school funding by £7.1 billion over three years, and increase starting salaries for teachers to £30,000.
While independent-school teachers place Labour first on education, they are more likely to vote for the Liberal Democrats in next month’s election, the Tes poll suggests.
Nearly a third – 32 per cent – of independent-school teachers polled said they planned to vote Lib Dem, even though only a fifth of them did so in the 2017 election.
Labour follows closely, with 30 per cent – down from the 38 per cent of independent-school teachers who said they voted for the party two years ago.
Support for the Conservatives has also dropped among independent-school teachers, with 27 per cent voting Tory in 2017 but only 20 per cent planning to do so on 12 December.
The surge in support for the Lib Dems may be down to their anti-Brexit stance; nearly half (47 per cent) of independent-school teachers named Brexit as the biggest factor influencing their vote in December’s general election.
Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of them had voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, and a slightly higher proportion (75 per cent) said they would do so again if there were a second referendum tomorrow.
Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said: “It’s Brexit that’s factoring in their thinking [on which party to vote for], not who’s got the best educational policy.”
Independent-school teachers were still more likely to support the Conservatives than state school teachers, of whom a far greater proportion planned to vote Labour at the next election (see second graphic below).