Education poll: yes to free schools, no to £9,000 fees

74 per cent oppose tuition fees of £9,000, a <em>New Statesman</em>/ICD poll finds.

This week's issue of the New Statesman (out tomorrow in London and the rest of the country from Thursday) is a special on education. The issue features an exclusive New Statesman/ICD poll on subjects including private schools, tuition fees, faith schools, abstinence teaching and free schools.

So here, for Staggers readers, are the headline findings.

Would you send your child to a private school if you could afford to?

A

Asked if they would choose to send their child to private school if it were financially viable, 49 per cent of respondents said yes and 51 per cent said no. The number of privately educated pupils has fallen since the recession, although by fewer than many expected.

The Independent Schools Council's annual survey showed a 1 per cent fall in pupil numbers, down from 511,886 in January 2010 to 506,500 in January 2011.

Do you think that faith schools should be abolished?

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Faith schools have had the support of both Labour and Conservative governments in recent times, but our poll found that the public is split over their merits. Asked if faith schools should be abolished, 41 per cent of respondents said yes and 59 per cent said no. At present, roughly 7,000 of the 20,000 state schools in England are religious, a figure that David Cameron has pledged to increase. The vast majority (6,944) are Christian; there are also 38 Jewish, 11 Muslim and three Sikh schools.

Do you think that children should be taught sexual abstinence at school?

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Tory MP Nadine Dorries recently tabled a ten-minute rule bill that called for schools to provide abstinence lessons for teenage girls. Our poll shows that the public appears to agree with her. Asked whether children should be taught abstinence at school, 53 per cent said yes and 47 per cent said no. Dorries's bill will receive its second reading debate in January 2012.

Do you think that the policy of free schools is a good idea for education in the UK?

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In a boost to Gove, the poll found that 79 per cent of people believe that his flagship policy of free schools is a “good idea for education in the UK". The schools will be state-funded but run by parents, charities, religious groups and childcare providers. Last June, the Education Secretary suggested that as many as 700 of the schools could be established, but just four will open their doors this September.

Should universities be allowed to charge students £9,000 a year?

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The poll showed that just 26 per cent of people believe that universities should be allowed to charge students £9,000 a year; 74 per cent oppose the idea. When the tuition fees legislation was passed by a majority of just 21 in December 2010, ministers pledged that universities would only charge the maximum amount in "exceptional circumstances". However, of the 98 institutions that have announced their plans, 67 intend to charge £9,000 for all degree courses.

This exclusive poll for the New Statesman was carried out by ICD Research, powered by ID Factor, from 21-22 May 2011 and is based on a sample of 1,010 responses.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.