Tories' poll showing is 'woeful'

5th April 1996 at 01:00
Violence and disipline are high on the agenda at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference. The Conservative party is "woefully behind" in all aspects of education, according to a national poll commissioned by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

The poll, conducted by the Harris Research Centre, shows that more than half of those surveyed do not believe the Conservative party will deliver more money for education, improve the quality of education or provide jobs for school-leavers. Only a fifth (23 per cent) think the Conservatives will be able to improve the quality of education, compared with 44 per cent who think Labour will.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, in Torquay this week for the union's annual conference, said: "Even in the areas where the Tory party claims the high moral ground it is found to be failing woefully. Less than a quarter of the electorate believe the Conservative party if re-elected will deliver the best quality of education. "

He said the survey also identified that selection is not the vote winner Conservative policy makers hope it will be. When asked for their top priorities for improving schools, respondents listed: better discipline, more money for schools and equipment and improved standards of teaching. "Only 46 per cent thought selection was important for school improvement," he said.

The survey also had messages for Labour on selection. It found that 64 per of the electorate thought Harriet Harman had made the right choice in sending her son to a grammar school.

Peter Smith said: "While there does seem to be some support for selection, I believe it is caused by what I call the Hovis effect - a sepia-tinted memory of the past. What people really want are for all schools to be well equipped, with good discipline and good teachers.

"Communities should choose the sorts of schools best for them. I suspect that most communities would find grammar schools producing a highly distorted system and I have no evidence that teachers, schools and parents want to return to a fully-selective system.'' He said many schools may want to look at setting or banding as ways of organising their pupils within a comprehensive context.

The Harris poll showed that a slight dip in Labour's popularity on education issues three months ago has been reversed. The low level of support for the Conservatives was however a slight improvement on six months ago. The Liberal Democrats were more popular than the Tories, with just under a third thinking their policies would improve the quality of education.

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