Annual Parent Survey 2018

Our 2018 Annual Parent Survey looks at parents’ attitudes and opinions on a number of topics related to their children’s education.

This is the fourth wave of the survey and as well as continuing to track parental attitudes year on year, it also asks parents their views on a number of new topics including perceptions of effectiveness of schools’ communications with parents; the importance of parental influence of children’s education; children’s mental health and wellbeing at school; attributes that children should have when they leave school; and attributes of a successful school and parents’ satisfaction. 

Key findings 

1. Top ways parents support learning at home and school

There are plenty of options for parents looking to get involved at school, and many support their child’s learning at home, too. Parental engagement is a key indicator of a happy school experience for that child, giving them the best chance to reach their potential.

Even when parents haven’t tried common activities for engagement, many would consider them. So what do parents do to assist their child’s learning, how often, and what else are they willing to try? What stops them from getting more involved? Here’s what our research uncovered. 

Key highlights

Top three ways parents engage with their child’s education:

  • Attending a parent consultation evening, where 71% have done so, and of those who haven’t, 73% would consider it
  • Being in contact with school about an issue affecting their child, where 54% had done so, and of those who haven’t, 79% would consider it
  • Being in contact with the teacher, or about a teaching issue, where 51% have done so and of those who haven’t, 75% would consider it
  • The main reasons parents say prevents them from getting more involved:
  • Not enough time (40%)
  • Unsure which skills to offer (30%)
  • Not being asked (28%)

Support parents most likely to offer on at least a weekly basis:

  • Helping with homework (67%)
  • Ensuring a good workspace for homework is available (58%)
  • Reading with their child for fun (53%)

2. Parents call on schools to address the accountability gap

Our research reveals that parents want more of a say in the education of their child, with 88% wanting to play an active role in their child’s education and 85% supportive of their child’s school.

  • 66% of parents want schools to be more accountable to them
  • 77% wish to have a say on their child’s education at school level

When it comes to how much of a say parents perceive they have:

  • 53% believe their school listens
  • 55% believe their school takes action based on their views

This reveals a gap between parents’ wishes and reality when it comes to accountability at school level.

The top four areas of school life on which parents would like to be consulted are:

  • Curriculum (56%)
  • Pupil behaviour (51%)
  • Homework (44%)
  • Budgets/​school costs (30%)

Despite this, a minority of parents report having actually been consulted on these issues (curriculum 27%; behaviour 30%; homework 32%; budgets 20%), while 42% say they have not raised issues, contributed ideas or offered feedback on matters that affect their child’s education at all in the past year.

More encouragingly, when it comes to satisfaction levels, 71% of parents are happy about the overall quality of their child’s school with 67% positive about the school’s effectiveness in communicating with them, and 62% in the school’s ability to help parents support their child’s learning outside of school. However, only 57% report being satisfied with the opportunities to get involved in their child’s school.

Parents also wish to have a say beyond school level, with 60% saying so for Education Authority / MAT or government levels. Despite that, only 35% and 30% respectively believe that these organisations listen to their views. This shows that the further parents are removed from decision-making, the larger the accountability gap becomes and the harder it is for parent voice to be heard.

Parentkind believes that every school should have a consultative parent body, such as a parent council, where mums’ and dads’ views are sought in an inclusive and representative way and where a broad range of topics can be discussed, particularly in relation to those that impact their child’s education and learning directly. School inspectors should also be required to include arguably softer’ indicators in their performance measures of schools where the overall experience of a child’s learning is taken into consideration.

3. School funding continues to impact parents

We began looking at this hot topic in detail in our survey last year, to see how the pressures on school budgets and subsequent cost-cutting measures are impacting on family life. This year, we asked parents about it again to see if it remains a key concern and to track any trends.

The results reveal that more parents are donating to their school fund year-on-year, and the average monthly contribution they make is increasing, too. At the same time, parents are increasingly being asked to pay for things that used to be free, such as school clubs, concerts and sports days, while stretched school budgets are seeing money-saving measures introduced in many schools.

Our latest research shows:

  • 43% of parents polled had been asked to donate to a school fund (up from 42% in 2017 and 37% in 2016)
  • The proportion of parents who donate to the school fund has increased to 36% (34% 2017, 29% 2016)
  • An average of £11.35 is donated each month, an increase of £2.45 (28%) on the 2017 figure
  • 51% know how the donated money was spent, up from 38% in 2017 and 37% in 2016
  • Around half (49%) of all parent respondents in 2018 believe the pressures on school budgets have negatively impacted their child’s education
  • The cost-cutting measure considered most detrimental is reducing the length of the school week, where 84% of parents who say it’s been implemented believe it to have had a negative impact
  • More parents are asked to pay for school clubs that used to be free (26%) as well as to attend events such as sports days and concerts (28%)
  • 21% have been asked to supply teaching equipment (stationery, books, glue pens etc.), up from 15% in 2017
  • 12% have been asked to supply essentials such as toilet paper, which is up from 7% last year

4. Parent poll reveals concerns over child mental health in schools

Our new research shows three in five parents are worried about their child’s emotional well-being and mental health at school, claiming two in five children have experienced stress relating to homework (42%) and exams (41%), while over a third have suffered from anxiety (38%) and bullying (33%). The findings from our latest annual parent survey also found that:

  • More than half of all respondents were concerned that the school’s high expectations were putting pressure on their child (53%)
  • Around a fifth of parents said their child had suffered from depression; rising to 23% of parents with children aged 16 or older. More than a quarter (27%) of these respondents said they were not satisfied with the way their child was helped by the school in this regard
  • A third (34%) of parents were not satisfied with how the school offered support for bullying
  • Although other serious mental health concerns such as self-harming, eating disorders and substance misuse were less commonly reported by parents (around one in 10 said their child experienced these), parents were relatively more satisfied by the support offered by their child’s school in these cases (self-harm 58%, eating disorders 61% and substance misuse 76%)
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of parents said their child had felt the pressure to constantly engage with social media as a result of something that happened at school
  • The majority of parents think self-confidence is one of the key attributes children should leave primary (64%) and secondary (57%) with

Our methodology 

The field work took place between 13th August – 7th September 2018 with a total sample of 1,500 parents (England 1200, Northern Ireland 100 and Wales 200) who have at least one child aged 5–18 attending state school representative of the parent population by gender, age and social grade. The Welsh and Northern Irish sub-samples were boosted to achieve a large enough base of respondents to allow national comparisons.

The large scale of the survey offers a significant and unique insight into what parents – key stakeholders in education – truly think about their child’s schooling. 

Download our Parent Voice Reports