Lockdown leaves state school parents eyeing independent sector

A new survey has found that 64% of families with a £60,000+ income said the quality of state schools’ remote learning during lockdown had left them considering going private

Lockdown has left a significant number of parents of pupils in state schools looking at independent education in a whole new light, according to a new poll by MTM Consulting.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Parental Perceptions of Independent Schools found that 64% of households with an income greater than £60,000 said they were now considering moving their children to schools in the independent sector.

Fifteen per cent of families closest to the minimum income bracket said they would be prepared to cut back on spending to afford school fees.

The findings tally with a July report in the Observer, in which the heads of more than a dozen private schools claimed they had seen an “extraordinary surge” in inquiries from parents of state school pupils. Many independent schools have reported a 20-30% increase in demand for places.

MTM polled 528 families with a combined income of more than £60,000+ at the end of the summer holidays and asked about their experience of education since the lockdown began in March.

Although three-quarters of respondents said their children had engaged in digital learning and virtual lessons during the summer term, only 11% of state school parents thought the quality of home learning was good or very good, in stark contrast to 90% of parents with children at independent schools.


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The independent sector also appears to have adapted more quickly to the challenges of lockdown.

Acccording to a survey by Teacher Tapp, at the end of April only 3% of state-funded primary and 6% of state-funded secondary schools were able to offer ‘live’ online lessons for pupils with their teachers, compared to 59% of private primary and 72% of private secondary schools.

“The quality and quantity of schoolwork set by schools for pupils to carry out at home during lockdown varied wildly,” said James Leggett, managing director of MTM Consulting.

“While some pupils followed the usual daily timetable with virtual lessons led by their regular teachers, many were left to complete photocopied worksheets or unfocused projects under the supervision of their parents.”

“Obviously, it does require an enormous amount of resources and of course teacher dedication to move the entire learning online, and there were challenges for all schools to manage this effectively.”

“Independent school fees have risen sharply over the past 10 years and not in line with salaries, but we are seeing an increase in the number of means-tested bursaries being made available by fee-charging schools, which brings an independent school education within the grasp of many more families.“

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