EXCLUSIVE: Voters support abolishing private schools

Polling also found that 58% of those asked supported private schools losing their charitable status if they did not admit a high proportion of students from deprived backgrounds


A greater proportion of voters support banning private schools than those who don’t, an exclusive poll for Left Foot Forward has found.

It comes as stark educational inequalities continue to be laid bare during the pandemic, with A-level results earlier this month showing that just under 40% of comprehensive students received an A or above compared to 70.1% of those at independent schools, reigniting debates over educational inequality.

The poll by Savanta ComRes, conducted over the weekend, revealed that 42% of those asked believed that private schools should be abolished, compared to 24% who opposed such a move.  The poll found that 21% strongly supported abolition with an equal proportion saying they ‘somewhat’ supported the proposal, with 27% neither supporting or opposing any such plan.

Of those who strongly supported abolishing private schools, support was highest among 25-34 year olds at 49% with those aged 65 and over to be most likely to oppose doing away with private schools altogether at 38%.

While 56% of those who had voted Labour in 2019 supported abolishing private schools, the figure was 32% among those who had voted Conservative. Of those who voted Lib Dem in 2019, 41% supported banning private schools, compared to 37% of those who had voted Green. Meanwhile, 39% of those who had voted Conservative opposed moves to ban private schools.

Our polling also found that 58% of those asked supported private schools losing their charitable status if they did not admit a high proportion of students from deprived backgrounds, with just 10% opposing. Support for scrapping the chartable status of private schools was highest among 55-64 year olds. While 54% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 supported such a move, the figure rose to 71% among those who had voted Labour, with 63% of those who voted Lib Dem also agreeing to such a proposal. Of those who had voted Green, 59% also supported such an initiative.

A majority of those surveyed also believed that private schools give an unfair advantage to children with wealthier parents, with just 24% believing that they don’t. When it came to party affiliation, 60% of Conservative Party voters and 78% of Labour party voters believed that private schools bestow an unfair advantage to the children of the wealthy.

Commenting on the poll findings, Robert Poole, campaign coordinator at Labour Against Private Schools told LFF: “This recent poll shows what we already knew. That there is a thirst within British society for equality. We are proud to have, in a small way, shifted the debate.

“I hope the political establishment now sits up and takes notice. Kate Green MP has given us her support in the past and she knows that private education is one of the pillars of inequality. The membership of the Labour Party supports integration of private schools, conference voted unanimously for it and now these figures show we have the support of the public. For too long this issue has been kicked into the long grass, to the detriment of our society which is dominated by a self-selecting privately educated elite. This should be a priority for our politicians not just because it is popular. Because it is right.”

Robert Verkaik, author of Posh Boys, How English Public Schools Ruin Britain told LFF: “This poll shows there is real public support for action to be taken to curb the unfair influence public schools have on the government of this country and the use of parental wealth to give privileged children an unfair leg up in life. Time and time again the private schools have been asked to justify their charitable status by making a substantial contribution to the welfare of their communities – and each time they have come up wanting. There is now overwhelming support for removing their charitable status and all the tax advantages associated with it.” 

The questions were as follows: To what extent do you support or oppose each of the following? Private school system being abolished. Private schools losing their charitable status if they do not admit a high proportion of students from deprived backgrounds. Respondents were also asked, which of the following statements is closest to your view? Private schools give an unfair advantage to children with wealthier parents/Private schools do not give an unfair advantage to children with wealthier parents.

Representative poll of 2083 GB adults. Prepared by Savanta: ComRes ~ Fieldwork Conducted 20th – 22nd Aug 2021

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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