• Poll of over 1,000 parents, commissioned for NEU, shows support for lockdown measures since March
  • 33% do not immediately plan to send their children back to school once measures are relaxed
  • Strong support for safety measures which have not yet been met by Government, including widespread testing and tracing, before schools re-open

Last week the National Education Union commissioned a Deltapoll of 1,024 parents of school-age children in England. (1)

Lockdown measures

In March the Government announced a range of measures in order to help the United Kingdom through the Covid-19 outbreak. The survey asked parents how supportive they were of measures implemented on or around 23 March, and to a large degree they were supportive of the cornerstones ‘staying at home’ (87%) and ‘social distancing’ (91%). In relation to education, they also supported the general closure of schools (86%), keeping schools open to disadvantaged children (81%), the suspending of Ofsted inspections (80%) and the cancelling of GCSE and A-Level exams (65%).

Overall, 92% of parents agree that the closure of schools has been an important factor in containing coronavirus. 90% of those polled have kept their child at home in light of lockdown requirements, the remainder being key workers or parents of a child with vulnerability needs.

Putting safety first

On 1 May the National Education Union announced its 5 Tests, which must be met by Government before the re-opening of schools can take place. (2) We have also signed a joint letter from the six TUC unions representing school workers, which was sent to the Education Secretary on 8 May, setting out the yardsticks by which we can ‘ensure the safety of children, parents, staff and the communities they serve.’ (3)

The principles are clear, and many of them were reflected in the questions put to parents. When asked which of a range of ‘tests’ needed to apply before schools can re-open, they said:

  • The Covid-19 new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend (82%)
  • Extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing must be in place (77%)
  • Scientific or medical evidence shows that it is safe for children to return to school (84%)
  • Covid-19 testing for all children and staff at your child’s school is conducted (67%)

When asked if teachers should have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when schools re-open, 59% agreed. This view was significantly higher amongst respondents in London (74%).

Parents also expressed a reluctance to send their children back to school as soon as it re-opens. Just under half (49%) said they would, with a third of the total sample (33%) intending to delay the return.

These views were consistent across primary and secondary sectors.

Commenting on the findings of the poll, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“With an aspiration to open schools more widely in less than three weeks from now, the Prime Minister is squandering a great deal of parental goodwill.

“The NEU has supported the lockdown, but the past few days have revealed the Government’s garbled approach to the next phase. In his haste to use schools as a symbol of recovery, the Prime Minister has merely succeeded in revealing the incoherence at the heart of his strategy. His ‘sketch’ must be redrawn.

“Now that the Prime Minister has set himself on a course out of lockdown, he needs to act fast to reassure unions, school staff and parents that when schools do open it will only be when our shared and widespread concerns for personal safety are fully met.”


Editor's Note

(1) 1,074 parents of school-age children in England were polled from 5-7 May 2020, before new lockdown measures were announced. The data in full can be found here.

(2) Our five tests, 1 May.

(3) TUC joint statement, 8 May.