General Election 2019: An Education Perspective


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What does the recent UK general election result mean for education?

The truth is that no one outside government (and perhaps even inside it) yet knows. But here we take a look at what education – along with various other socioeconomic and demographic indicators – appeared to mean for the election, at least in England.

The headlines

SchoolDash has found that:

  1. Despite gaining many traditionally Labour-supporting seats, the Conservatives continue to represent parts of England with lower average levels of childhood poverty, higher proportions of young people in education and employment, and higher average levels of life satisfaction among local populations.
  2. However, when we look at the swing from Labour to the Conservatives, a different picture emerges. Areas with the largest swings tended to have high levels of childhood poverty, low academic attainment at secondary school and beyond, and low levels of participation in higher education. Broadly similar patterns were evident for Brexit Party support where they fielded candidates.
  3. Statistically speaking, then, the Conservatives continue to be the party of more affluent and contented parts of England. But the surge in support that they enjoyed during last week’s election came largely from apparently ‘left behind’ areas with much lower levels of affluence and educational success.

General Election

  • Figure 1 shows the relationships between educational, social and political factors across England with the results from last week’s election. Each dot represents a local authority area (not a Parliamentary constituency). Dot sizes correspond to pupil numbers.

Poverty and Conservative votes…

  • Despite the Conservatives gaining many traditionally Labour seats, there is still a strong tendency for more affluent areas to show higher Conservative support. There is a similar pattern when we look at pupils who are eligible for free school meals or for whom English is not their first language.
  • The Conservatives also received more support in areas with lower per-pupil funding (which generally correspond to non-metropolitan areas) and lower primary school attainment for disadvantaged pupils but higher proportions of students staying in education or employment at age 16. Their share of the vote also positively correlated with population wellbeing measures such as life satisfaction.
  • Support for Labour shows mostly the opposite trends to those shown, so SchoolDash have analysed the Brexit Party. This analysis is complicated by the fact that they did not contest Conservative-held seats, but we can nevertheless see clear trends by poverty, low house prices (especially clear outside London), low social mobility, low participation in higher education and, of course, high support for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
  • Among schools in Brexit Party-supporting areas, we see higher proportions of pupils eligible for free school meal, high levels of pupil absence and persistent absence, and low proportions of pupils with for whom English is not their first language.
  • There are also relatively high average levels of socio-economic segregation between schools and low self-generated school income.
  • When it comes to educational performance, schools in Brexit Party-supporting areas show lower average attainment at Key Stage 1 and GCSEs, as well as lower proportions of students achieving Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications.

Key characteristics of this election

  • The Labour-Conservative swing. Unsurprisingly, this correlated positively with support for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. It also correlated positively with childhood poverty, pupil absence, socioeconomic segregation among schools.
  • The swing also correlated negatively with GCSE attainment, proportions of students achieving Level 2 or Level 3 qualifications, participation in higher education and the proportion of the local population with degrees.

These results suggest that the Conservatives continue to be the party of relatively affluent and contented parts of England; the surge in support that they enjoyed during last week’s election came largely from areas commonly thought of as ‘left-behind’.


2 thoughts on “General Election 2019: An Education Perspective

  1. Hang on a minute – your graphs don’t show what your headline says!

    The graphs of Tory/Labour vote share against deprivation show the OPPOSITE of your headline: the higher the deprivation, the lower the Tory vote/the higher the Labour vote. Sorry but it seems that you are misreading the data.

    Also your text says Figure 1 “shows the relationships between educational, social and political factors across England with the results from last week’s election” but it doesn’t, it compares “Income Deprivation Among Children” against “Pupils Eligible For Free School Meals”. There’s no reference to the election results in this data.

    1. Yes and no. The graph screenshot at the top of the blog shows its default settings, which displays local child poverty against school FSM (because this was the default in the original study from which all the socioeconomic and educational data came). It’s correct to say that this particular view doesn’t show any election data, but the other graphs included at the bottom do. We need to make a distinction between the Conservative vote share (which is indeed lower in poorer areas) and the swing from Labour to the Conservatives (which tended to be higher in poorer areas).

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