Schools survey reveals behaviour in schools and happy children are top priorities for parents

By January 2, 2016Insight
What are the top priorities for parents?

The results of more than 420,000 parental surveys conducted by schools across the country has revealed the top five areas of importance for parents that relate to their child’s school.

The results have been revealed at the launch of the ‘Knowing your Parents’ briefing paper published today by Kirkland Rowell Surveys and the National Governors’ Association. The statistics are based on parental responses over the last 12 months from Kirkland Rowell Surveys, part of GL Performance.

The top priorities are in order of importance:

1. School discipline
2. Teaching quality
3. Happiness of child
4. Control of bullying
5. Caring teachers


Surprisingly, exam results do not appear in the top five and rarely in the top 10 for most schools. These five priorities are identical for primary and secondary parents.

Some other key findings are:

• ‘Caring teachers’ is more important to girls’ parents, whereas ‘developing potential’ is more important to boys’ parents.
• When parents are asked how satisfied they are with each of the different areas of their child’s school, they are most satisfied with ‘happiness of child’.
• Primary parents generally give a more positive score than those of Secondary parents.

The statistics also show that as children progress through school, parents’ concerns change. Typically, where parents have children who are taking exams, there’s a tendency to place greater importance on academic issues. Or, looking at parental views on academic subjects, history invariably scores well at the vast majority of schools, while religious studies nearly always rates poorly – apart from at Catholic schools, where it can outshine history.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive, National Governors’ Association, said: “Governing bodies need to understand what parents think about their school. Parents’ views can inform both the evaluation of the school’s current performance, and the strategic plans for the future. The National Governors’ Association is encouraging all governing bodies to make sure they are collecting and thoroughly considering information from parents.”

Ian Rowe, General Manager at GL Performance, explains: “Our survey results show that parents want schools to support their children in becoming well-rounded individuals that are happy, confident and socially and morally aware. Of course, academic success is important, but developing children as a whole is rated more highly than exam results.”

Ian continues, “Parental views are an excellent way of informing school evaluation and strategic planning, and this kind of activity should be considered good practice by primary and secondary schools alike. Yet gauging parental opinion is not an easy task and response rates to online surveys in our experience are significantly less than paper based surveys.

“It may well be that parents with a child who has excelled or those with an axe to grind are only too happy to complete and return a questionnaire. But these views may not be representative so it’s essential to have a broad spread of opinion – and also to see how your school results compare at least with the national picture.

“If you can benchmark your results against those of a large number of schools operating in similar circumstances, the results become even more meaningful and it’s far easier to spot the unusual results”, he concludes.