Majority of parents don’t know how academy system works

Concern over parents' ability to have their say over their child's education amid 'blurred lines of accountability'

John Roberts

Concerns have been voiced over parents ability to have their say in a school system where there is confusion about who is accountable.

A major new survey of parents has revealed widespread ignorance about how England’s academised state school system works.

Only half of the parents questioned for a new poll were able to explain what an academy is, according to the Parentkind national parents organisation.

lt also found that less than one-in-five parents could explain what a multi-academy trust is.

And even among those parents whose children attend a school run by a MAT, only two in five (40 per cent) feel they are able to explain what it is.

Parentkind’s chief executive John Jolly is concerned that the "complexity of the school governance" system is affecting parents' ability to be able have a say over the way their children’s school is run.

The survey found that although nearly all parents (91 per cent) had heard of the term academy – only 51 per cent felt able to explain what one was.

Mr Jolly, said: “Parents are clearly interested in sharing their views but the complexity of our school governance models has led to blurred lines of accountability and confusion over how to be able to have a voice and contribute their ideas.”

The Parentkind survey also found that that despite three quarters (76 per cent) of parents wanting to have a say on a range of issues at school level, only a fifth (18 per cent) of parents of children in local authority maintained schools and eight per cent of parents in standalone academies think their views will be listened to.

The survey of 1,500 of parents and carers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland also found that"

  • Less than one in four (23 per cent) think central government listens to their views.
  • Half (49 per cent) believe their child’s school takes action based on their views or feedback.
  • Half say their child’s school should be more accountable to parents than they currently are.
  •  Only four in 10 (41 per cent) feel able to have a say on school decisions that affect their child’s education.
  • Less than half (49 oer cent) know that MAT schools are inspected by Ofsted.
  • More than a third (36 per cent) of respondents incorrectly believe that academies are bound to follow the national curriculum.

Mr Jolly added: “It’s worrying to see that parents have considerably lower levels of trust – beyond the school gates – in those responsible for delivering a first-class education to our children. 

“As politicians across the spectrum promote the opportunities their parties will deliver under a new government, they should not forget the value parents can bring to their own child’s learning, their schools, the local community and society as a whole.

"They should encourage parental engagement with clearer mechanisms for participation with a requirement for a consultative parent body in every school.”

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders' union NAHT, said: "Schools can find that parents can have quite differing views on topics such as homework and uniform, and it can be a challenge for schools to balance these often competing viewpoints.

"We should also remember that schools have a number of statutory duties that they are obliged to abide by. We shouldn’t overlook that there are existing mechanisms for parents to become more involved in schools.

"Any parents who want to have a closer role in their accountability may want to consider joining their school’s governing body or trust.

"The education system relies heavily on these valuable volunteers, and we always need more high quality individuals who can best represent their school’s diverse communities.”


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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