Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 14:03 UK

Poll dismay over Labour education

Girls looking at GCSE results
Today's GSCE students were entirely educated under Labour

Sixty seven percent of people in England think Labour has not delivered on its promise to put education at the top of its agenda, a poll suggests.

Only 28% said the party had lived up to former Prime Minister Tony Blair's "education, education, education" vow.

More than half also said Labour had failed to improve the quality of the education system since coming to power.

The poll was conducted for the BBC's Newsnight programme and included a random sample of 850 people in England.

The data was collected between 21-23 August 2009.

More than 600,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland got their GCSE results on Thursday.

They are the first group of young people who have had their entire education under this Labour government.

Difficult reading

Newsnight commissioned the poll, conducted by ComRes, to assess how people think these students have been served by New Labour as part of a special programme on education to be broadcast later on Thursday.

Poll result pie chart

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Although a record proportion of GCSE entries were awarded the top grades in this year's exams, the results of the poll make difficult reading for the government with just 34% of those questioned saying that Labour had lived up to expectations on education, while 60% said that it had not.

There was large-scale uniformity in the answers of all age groups questioned, although the youngest age group were the least negative.

Overall 52% disagreed when asked if Labour have improved the overall quality of the education system since coming to power in 1997, while 41% said it had.

However, amongst those aged 18-24 just 36% disagreed and 55% said Labour had improved education.

When asked whether state education had got worse since Labour came into office in 1997 the overall split in opinion was much less, with 47% saying it had deteriorated and 43% saying it had not.

Again the group aged 18-24 were the least negative, with 48% saying that state education was not worse under Labour and 39% saying it was.

Party support

Only 30% of those polled said that Labour had used the investment it has made in education in the most effective way, whereas 63% said it had not.

Tony Blair and school pupils
Tony Blair promised that education would be Labour's priority

There was a similar split on whether Labour's management of Britain's education system over the past 12 years had created the right balance between central control over schools and local decision making, with 59% saying it had not and 32% saying it had.

When asked if state education is better now than it would have been if the Conservative party had been in power for the past 12 years just 39% agreed, while 48% disagreed.

Those aged from 25-34 were notably more positive towards Labour on this, with 50% saying education had fared better than it would have under the Conservatives.

Those aged 18-24 were the most unsure of which party would have been best, with 38% saying that education was better under Labour than the Conservatives, 37% disagreeing and 25% saying they did not know.

The question about which there was most certainty, with just 4% answering "don't know", was whether Labour's management of the education system has actually made it harder for people from poorer backgrounds to get a good education.

However a small majority, 48%, said that it was harder now, while 47% said it was not.

The 850 respondents were also asked which party they thought had the best policies on education.

Thirty-five percent said the Conservatives, 25% Labour, 15% backed the Liberal Democrats and 3% gave their backing to other parties.

Watch Newsnight's special programme on education under Labour on Thursday 27 August at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

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