Last updated: 17.03.15

New research reveals what our politicians really think about education in Britain

Ahead of tonight’s pre-election debate in London* between the main political parties on their vision for schools and teaching, latest research suggests that bridging the gap between education and the world of work is a top priority for MPs – and key to Britain’s position in the world economy.

With two months until the general election, cross party MP research from Ipsos MORI shows that over one-third (34%) of MPs feel the current education system leaves people poorly equipped for the world of work with almost half (49%) citing the skills shortage as the most important issue facing British business and industry today. MPs clearly see a disconnect between the people that educational establishments produce, and what the economy needs.

The research Education: what our politicians think was carried out by Ipsos MORI as part of its regular Members of Parliament Survey on behalf of education specialist consultancy Communications Management.

40% of MPs would like to see employers given more influence over how universities are run and the programmes taught. When asked where they would invest to support an improvement in Britain’s position in the world economy 34% of MPs would increase the number and standard of apprenticeships available and nearly one- third (29%) would like to see more investment in vocational courses. This link between education and employers may be more evident at sixth form and above but there's much schools can do pre-16.

Rod Knox, CEO at Virtual College, says:

"There is an important role for schools to engage with employers and forge links that open up opportunities for students before they complete their all important GCSEs. To support this, Virtual College has established a new concept of a career Vocational Open Online Course (VOOC), which will help students to engage with employers through a virtual but interactive online platform."

When asked what they would do to improve schools, the top two responses from MPs, focused firmly on supporting the people working in schools - not investment in facilities/resources or the introduction of specific policies. 49% of MPs said they would invest more in school leadership development, whilst 42% would like to raise the status of the teaching profession.

Justin Shaw, MD at Communications Management says:

"It will be interesting to see the progress and impact of the proposed College of Teaching in support of this cross party ambition. With the top priority for MPs investment in school leadership development are there more lessons for schools to learn from best practice in leadership from the commercial business sector? And with more schools gaining independence from local authorities and needing to operate as viable businesses this is a train that’s will clearly gather momentum post election."

MPs were also asked what they would do to help improve universities if given free reign over education policy. The top choice across the political spectrum (57% of all MPs) was to invest more in university research programmes. MPs clearly recognise the importance of high quality research outputs for maintaining standards at Britain’s world-class universities. Not only this, but research excellence contributes to innovation and Britain’s economic growth.

Notes to editors:

For interviews with Justin Shaw MD at education specialist consultancy Communications Management or Rod Knox, CEO from Virtual College contact Claire Alderson on 01727 850761 or email

*A pre-election debate between the main political parties on their vision for schools and teaching policy hosted by Times Educational Supplement (TES) on 11 March in London.

Education: what our politicians think analyses findings from the winter 2014 Ipsos MORI Members of Parliament Survey, part of Ipsos MORI’s programme of regular multi-sponsored studies. The research was based on 107 face to face interviews with MPs (conducted during November and December 2014) including Ministers and backbenchers, to closely represent the profile of the House of Commons.

Virtual College is one of the leading online learning providers in the UK with over 1.5 million learners. The company has developed a comprehensive product range, including over 300 online courses, accessed via the company's own Learning Management System, as well as offering a complete content design and development service.

Communications Management is an education specialist consultancy. They provide analysis, strategy advice and creative campaigns that boost presence, profile, reach and influence. Insight-led and impact-focused, we're UK based, with global expertise. Their clients include educators – Higher Education Institutions, schools, FE colleges, business schools, skills providers – and the businesses, agencies and charities that support them.