What Lib Dem members think about ‘free schools’ and who should have most power

by Stephen Tall on September 23, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

42% of Lib Dem members reject ‘free schools’

LDV asked: “Free Schools” are new state schools set up by parents, teachers or voluntary groups which are outside the control of local authorities. Which of the following statements best reflects your views on free schools?

  • 30% – Free schools provide more choice for local parents and will help improve education overall
  • 42% – Free schools take resources and funds away from existing schools, and will damage education overall
  • 17% – Neither
  • 11% – Don’t know / No opinion

According to our sample of party members, therefore, there is a plurality who oppose the concept of ‘free schools’, fearing they will damage education overall — though almost 1-in-3 back them, a higher figure than I was expecting, to be honest.

A significant minority, 17%, selected ‘neither’. Reading through the comments submitted, many took a more nuanmced view than the simply for/against binary allowed: ‘I hate the way every subject these days has two polarised corners in which to seat yourself. Am against free schools largely but concede that in some cases they could be useful.’

Central government & teaching unions too powerful; parents & headteachers need more power

LDV asked: Do you think the following have too much power over how schools are run, about the right amount of power, or not enough power over how schools are run?

    Local councils
    18% – Too much power
    52% – About the right amount of power
    22% – Not enough power
    7% – Don’t know

    Teaching unions
    40% – Too much power
    45% – About the right amount of power
    3% – Not enough power
    12% – Don’t know

    Parents
    6% – Too much power
    49% – About the right amount of power
    38% – Not enough power
    7% – Don’t know

    Central government
    65% – Too much power
    26% – About the right amount of power
    2% – Not enough power
    7% – Don’t know

    Headteachers
    7% – Too much power
    52% – About the right amount of power
    33% – Not enough power
    8% – Don’t know

An interesting set of results. Broadly speaking, around half our sample of party members felt trade unions, local councils, parents and headteachers all had about the right amount of power in running schools. However, the latter two groups were felt to be the most in need of additional powers, while teaching unions were most likely to be thought to need their wings clipping.

However, there’s no doubt the overall villain of the piece: almost two-thirds of Lib Dems believe central government has far too much say in how our schools are run.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 15th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll