Citizens Panel survey

As part of the Public and Stakeholder Engagement strand of Beyond Current Horizons, a Citizens Panel was established to ask members of the public questions about the future of education. The Citizens Panel were sent a ten-question survey that included both ordering questions and free text entry. Questions included asking about the immediate goals of education, as well as hopes, fears and expectations for future education. An additional seven questions were included to gather demographic characteristics of the respondents. In total 514 surveys were returned (out of 1,100 sent out, a return rate of 47%).

The response from the Citizens Panel was that having the most appropriate skills for work is the most important job of the education system. This emerged from the qualitative and quantitative questions and was felt strongly across the demographic groups. People have a real worry that an education system out of step with economic reality will leave young people disillusioned and out of work and Britain lagging behind the rest of the world. It is likely that the strength of feeling about this has been influenced by the current economic climate.

A number of questions asked the panel to try to look into the future. Perhaps unsurprisingly, age was the most important factor influencing the results. Younger people are more likely to look at current trends and project them into the future, whereas older people are more likely to draw inspiration from the past. The generation gap was very apparent, with lots of negative views about children and young people expressed throughout the responses.

The Citizens Panel believed that the education system is likely to be very different in 2025, especially in terms of technological developments, but they were keen to stress that certain academic standards are timeless. There was a perception that too many people leave education without basic numeracy, literacy and communication skills and this needs to be addressed (though not, they hasten to add, with too great a reliance on bureaucratic testing).

The Panel wanted the current gap in educational achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged children to be closed. There is a significant ‘Bristol effect’ here as state schools in the region are known to be struggling. The Panel did not want to see a two-tier system based on the ability to pay developing further in Bristol or elsewhere.

Finally, the panel wanted to see better quality teaching in the classroom. They wanted teachers and future teachers to have more control in the classroom, a more engaging teaching style and to rely less on boring self-directed study for pupils. They thought that this could be achieved in a number of ways such as attracting a higher calibre of staff through higher pay, reducing workloads and better training and support.