Scots believe standards of excellence in education are being eroded by poor funding, large class sizes and disruptive pupils, according to a System Three poll carried out for the Educational Institute of Scotland and published today (Friday).
Sixty-eight per cent of parents questioned agreed with the union that schools lack cash. "The prognosis for Scottish education is not a healthy one," the researchers say.
As part of its long-term campaign on underfunding, the institute commissioned System Three to sample the views of 1,071 adults, 46 per cent of whom are in touch with education.
The findings send a "clear and unambiguous" message to Scottish Office ministers, Ronnie Smith, the EIS's general secretary, commented. "The general public and parents in particular are very positive about teachers and the quality of education in schools but there are underlying concerns about trends and developments," Mr Smith said.
The institute is heartened that 74 per cent see standards of teaching in a positive light, while 81 per cent of parents of school-age children rate teaching standards as at least "fairly good". Seventeen per cent of the public describe teaching as "very good" and 57 per cent regard it as at least "fairly good". Only 11 per cent say it is "poor".
Nine out of ten parents agree that a cut in maximum class sizes would have a positive effect on pupil performance. An interesting observation, the researchers add, is that those from the higher social classes view smaller class sizes as more important.
Less reassuringly, the public remain unclear about selection for secondary schools. Almost four out of 10 (38 per cent) say schools should return to some form of selection, although views vary with age. Those under the age of 45 are strongly opposed to selection being reintroduced.
Meanwhile, the message about Higher Still has yet to penetrate. Only one in 10 of the general public has heard of the initiative, rising to 16 per cent among parents with children at secondary school. A tough line against classroom disruption is backed by 78 per cent of the public and 75 per cent of parents with children at school.
In the tertiary sector, the public clearly agree that student loans adversely affect the number of students who are in a position to study at college or university. Three-quarters of parents confirm that finance is a major worry.
Among other findings is overwhelming approval for free state nursery provision for all children aged three to five.