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Ipsos finds concern about children’s mental health and staff welfare in education

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New Ipsos findings on attitudes to education in Britain, released today, highlight the level of parental concern about children’s mental health and a desire for more action to support mental health and Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in schools.

  • Just under half of parents of children in education worry about their child’s mental health
  • Overall, the British public think schools are performing well, although not across all areas.
  • More provision for SEN and mental health tops the list of areas the public want the government to prioritise for schools in Britain.

Parental concerns

Mental health tops the list of things parents worry about with respect to their children, mentioned by 45% of parents. 1 in 3 worry about their child’s social life and friendships, and a similar proportion about their physical health.

How do people rate the quality of British education?

Overall, more people think British Primary schools, Secondaries, Colleges and Universities are good quality than bad quality, with parents more positive than the public as a whole. For example, 49% of the British public (57% of parents) said the quality of primary schools in Britain is very or fairly good, compared with 13% who said it was bad (24% said it was neither good nor bad).

However, views are more mixed on how good a job British schools are doing across a range of more specific criteria. The public is most positive about pupil academic performance (39% said schools do a good job in this regard), but less positive about how good a job they do in addressing pupil’s mental health issues (27%) and staff wellbeing (24%). Again, parents were more positive in their assessments across all these criteria than were the public as a whole.

What do people think the government should prioritise for Britain’s schools?

Greater provision for Special Educational Needs and mental health tops the list of areas the public wants the government to prioritise in schools, mentioned by 36%. This is followed by free school meals for all (34%) and more teaching assistants to support teachers (32%). These were also the top three priorities for parents, although they were more likely to prioritise school meals (37%) and more teaching assistants (33%) than SEN and mental health provision (29%).

Satisfaction with Ofsted

The English public as a whole is divided in how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with the way Ofsted assesses schools – 28% were satisfied, 30% dissatisfied, and 26% neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. However, again, parents were more positive, with 42% of parents of school age children satisfied with Ofsted.

Kelly Beaver MBE, Chief Executive of Ipsos UK and Ireland, said: “In general, the public, and even more so, parents, think the quality of education from primary to college age is good, which is reassuring.  However, there are still a number of areas of concern, including student mental health support and staff wellbeing.  With another round of teachers strikes due next month, it seems that staff welfare is an issue both teachers and the public agree on – an issue that will need to be addressed if the Government seek to improve public opinion of schooling overall.”

  • Questions were administered online to 2,221 British adults aged 18+, including 801 parents with children in education, from 26-30 May 2023.
  • Where results do not sum to 100%, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” categories.
  • All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. A poll of 1,000 generally can generally be assumed to have a creditability interval of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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