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Teachers' private dream

TES poll suggests thousands of state staff would opt for fee-paying schools for their children if they could afford it. Michael Shaw reports

One in four state school teachers would educate their children privately if they could afford it, an exclusive TES poll reveals.

The survey of 700 teachers in England and Wales shows that 26 per cent of teachers in the state system would send their children to independent schools if they had the money.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, has criticised state teachers who go private for sending the wrong message to parents.

She told a Labour party conference meeting last year: "If you work in the state system you have to send your child there, otherwise the message it sends to parents is 'It's good enough for your child but it's not good enough for mine'."

However, the proportion of teachers who would like to go private is smaller than for parents in other professions. Previous polls have suggested as many as half of all parents would prefer independent schools.

Dick Davison, joint director of the Independent Schools Council information service, said: "You could look at the figure and say it shows one in four teachers are unconfident in the state system - or you could say that it shows teachers are far more confident than others.

"From the second perspective, it's actually modestly promising for state schools."

The proportion of teachers who use independent schools is close to the national average of 7 per cent, with nearly twice as many heads and deputies paying fees as classroom teachers.

Private school teachers are more likely to educate their children in them - although one in five still said they would never choose an independent school on principle. Teachers in the south of England were nearly twice as likely to say they would go private schools than those in the North and in Wales, where only a fifth would use them.

Behaviour and academic standards appear to be key reasons why teachers would prefer private schools, where day fees cost an average of pound;7,272 a year.

Overall, most teachers felt pupil behaviour had deteriorated over the past four years.

But fewer complained about disruption than did in a TES poll in 2000 when they were asked to rate Labour's first term.

In contrast, teachers were slightly less positive than in the 2000 poll about changes in academic standards.

However, they were still more likely to say that academic standards had improved since 2001 (45 per cent) than stayed the same (38 per cent) or declined (10 per cent).

Polling firm FDS, which carried out the phone survey, said: "It seems hard to believe that since 2001 there have been rising academic standards AND deteriorating pupil behaviour - but one in five teachers claims both have occurred, suggesting teachers have performed heroically in increasingly difficult circumstances."

Peter Wilby, 23


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