Re-balancing the ‘back to school’ discourse in Scotland – Part 2
The purpose here is to present findings from recent online surveys conducted by the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) and by Connect (the trading name of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council). What follows is a selective account of their research findings. Unashamedly, the focus is on the ‘positive’. If not here, if not now — then where and when!
Views of teaching staff
Five findings are selected for amplification — on what has happened and on looking forward — from an EIS membership survey conducted online between 12 and 19 May. It received over 26,000 replies, a response rate of c.60%.
As the purpose here is (simply) to ‘expose’ more people to ‘positives’, the following charts taken from the EIS survey report are given without further comment. They are self-explanatory.
From responses to survey questions from headteachers and their deputes, the EIS additionally reported the following.
Views of parents and carers
Four notable findings are selected for amplification from the Connect online survey of parents and carers. The survey, which was self-selecting, was launched on 27 May 2020. An Interim Report analyses responses up to 2 June. As of that date there were 2007 responses from 29 local authority areas (out of a possible 32). The survey investigates “next steps (back to school) and includes questions on parental confidence, intentions and whether parents want to be consulted on local planning for the return to school”. Unsurprisingly, respondents have many questions and a range of legitimate concerns at this time.
It is understood that the survey is still open and may have now have achieved more than 5,500 responses. A final report is not available at this time.
(Recall from Part 1 of this blog that Connect in its campaigning is stating that: “We strongly believe that parents, children and families in general are being taken for granted …”)
Again, with one exception, the selected findings are reproduced without further comment.
My comment on the Connect survey findings concerns the above graph and how its findings are referred to in the text of the Interim Report: it’s a minor case study in use of survey data. The Interim Report states that “58% said communication between nurseries/schools and families was going well; 41% said it could be improved or was not going well”.
Candidly there are few things in life that could not be improved so the remarkable finding is that only 6% of respondents felt ‘It’s not going well”. A suggestion for future survey design: Connect should ask a ‘how satisfied are you’ (or equivalent) question and use a Lickert Scale, typically a five or seven point scale which is used to allow the individual to express how much they agree or disagree with a particular statement.
This would also greatly assist when asking this question which appears in the survey: “If blended learning/part-time school may lead to negative impacts, what might these be?” and which then gives a list of options to choose from. This has the clear potential for lumping together – of aggregating inappropriately – those with only minor concerns with those with major concerns over a particular topic. Again a Lickert Scale would be much more revealing and a better basis for case making!
The use by advocacy bodies of well-designed primary research, with transparent, publicly available methodology statements is ‘good practice’. It’s important for ‘alert readers’ of media coverage of public pronouncements that refer to survey data to check out if possible the robustness of the underlying evidence. It’s also important to examine how selective the advocacy body and/or the media outlet is being over the findings that are chosen for amplification. Here we are explicit – we are talking up Scotland! We know in circumstances dear to the hearts of many in the TuSC that the media in Scotland in particular have a tendency towards selecting the ‘negatives’.