We now live in an ‘instant data’ world, where the internet is often seen as the answer to everything. As a result the public expect more information than ever before, and want that information to be both accessible and clear. There has been a real drive for more open data by government in recent years, resulting in much more information about schools being published, including raw data on parental income school performance. There are also plans in the future to publish data from the National Pupil Database and to bring data together in one place.
Despite this however, parents often feel that they are not getting the depth and breadth of information they would like. This new report by Fiona Millar and Family Lives,‘A new conversation with parents: how can schools inform and listen in a digital age?’ looks at what information parents want from their schools and how they want to access it.
The report finds:
• Parents want a fuller, more frequent picture of their child’s progress: 45% of parents want more information on teaching quality but equally important was the need for additional information on their child’s happiness (42%), social and emotional development (44%), and the way bullying and poor behaviour is managed (46%). Whilst only 42% felt that they receive regular information on their school’s overall performance. 60% of secondary school parents wanted information about pupils’ progress not just final results.
Parents would prefer reports every term via email (36%), secure website they have a password for (32%) with some even wanting to receive certain information via text message (25%). However, nearly half (47%) of parents surveyed would still like to receive a report of performance in traditional letter format each term.
• Parents want more power to act: Over three quarters of all parents (77%) called for the power to trigger Ofsted inspections due to serious concerns over teaching standards, but 71% felt it should only happen when a number of parents hold the same concern. Meanwhile, 78% thought parents should be regularly surveyed by Ofsted with 72% believing that they should be able to meet inspectors.
• Parents rely on teaching quality and reputation more than exam results when choosing a school: While test and exam results (87%) came out as somewhat or very important, parents consider many other local and impressionistic factors. In fact, 97% of parents said that impression of the quality of teaching was very or somewhat important, followed by general reputation in the local community (94%), proximity (91%) and other factors such as their impression of the children currently at the school (91%) and their impression of the open evening (88%). Despite only half of all parents (51%) feeling very confident during the selection process that they would successfully secure their first choice of school, in reality nearly all parents (91%) reported that their child did indeed gain a place at their preferred school.
We’ll be running joint-events on this work at each of the 2011 political party conferences and please let us know your thoughts on the research in the comments section below.