Poor GCSE results linked with voter support for UKIP

New research that suggests regions with underperforming schools are more likely to have the highest numbers of UKIP voters has sparked heated debate in education’s Twittersphere.

But research author Dr Meenakshi Parameshwaran, of think tank LKMco and Education Datalab, says it’s time to wake up to “the uncanny relationship between UKIP voting and education”.

“Whatever the causes of the relationship . . . it is clear that we cannot continue to ignore areas of the UK where educational performance is low, and where voters feel endorsing UKIP is the best way to improve things for themselves.”

She analysed vote share and educational data for the 533 English constituencies, finding that areas with higher UKIP vote shares tended to have lower average GCSE performance.

“Whilst there are some outliers, the negative relationship between areas of educational underperformance and UKIP voting is undeniable,” she said.

“It is also quite a strong relationship, with every quarter of a per cent reduction in average GCSE performance significantly associated with a rise in local UKIP vote share by 1 per cent.”

The findings were contested on social media, with many observers stating that numerous factors could explain the relationship between UKIP vote share and GCSE performance.

But a second study by Dr Parameshwaran, published last week, found that “constituencies with better GCSE performance have lower UKIP vote shares, even after accounting for local levels of education, unemployment, deprivation and ethnicity”.

She told Schools Week: “Whilst my results might have surprised some people, those familiar with research on educational and social disadvantage already argue that radical reforms are needed to end the persistent structural inequality that is driving support for UKIP.

“In particular, more needs to be done to break the cycle of educational disadvantage, such as providing extra support to those children whose parents struggle both financially and educationally.”

Ian Martin, a primary school teacher in Leeds, has also investigated the relationship between pupil premium and community cohesion. In his research for his masters degree, he found that school experiences of parents may be a factor, more so than current school underperformance.

“Many working-class parents told me that they feel their experiences are not understood by people in positions of authority, and that their own, often unhappy or at least underwhelming, experiences of school mean they feel the same about the culture within many (but not all) schools.

“Many told me that they felt no hope for their children’s future and that they had no faith in the political mainstream. I concluded that the needs of working-class communities in many parts of the UK are not being addressed by mainstream decision-makers and that the experiences of working-class communities are often dismissed as of a lesser value.”

UKIP was approached for comment on several occasions, but did not respond before Schools Week went to press.

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  1. Janet Downs

    None of the researchers appear to have considered the average age in constituencies. Are areas where there are a significant number of retirees more likely to vote for UKIP?
    That said, Dr Parameshwaran’s research and Ian Martin’s investigation highlight the link between educational experience of parents and their children’s performance.

  2. nikki

    trying to blame ukip for the poor teaching and for more money taken away from education, The conservatives (David Cameron) is the reason behind the many students from all different types of background failing aswell as our country failing

  3. *grabs popcorn*

    So basically, those which weren’t bothered to put in the effort at school often look up to for outside sources, like UKIP, to pin their sorry lives on someone else and to give themselves a sense of entitlement.

    Looking at the average intelligence of a far-right individual, the evidence for the claim simply adds up more and more.

  4. Are you serious? Are you really, honestly serious? This is the most ridiculous piece of garbage I have yet seen compiled in a vain effort to try and undermine the integrity of the UK Independence party. You do realise that UKIP is the only party wholly committed to getting Britain out of the federal, political dictatorship laughingly called the European ‘Union?’ What you may find, if you take your biased spectacles off for a moment and actually use your brain, is that there is a groundswell of despair and dissatisfaction among a significant percentage of the population with the fact that we are being sold off and signed away to the unelected bueaucrats of Brussels and that, if we as a country don’t soon get out of this charade called the EU, there will be nothing of this country left. Trying to look for some nebulous link between school performance and who people vote for is laughable and actually quite contemptible.

    • Well said John Willoughby – I totally agree with your comments. We have been fed all sorts of propaganda and lies by Cameron and Osborne et al – the more desperate they get the worse their lies become. The biased reporting against UKIP on TV and in the media was transparently obvious and contemptuous. Instead of giving the British people honest information about the EU, Cameron has been scaremongering – and has used our money to fund his silly, dishonest leaflets to continue giving power to unelected bureaucrats in the EU.
      If it wasn’t for Nigel Farage and UKIP we would not be having a referendum – we would not have realised our country was being sold down the river or the extent of the power of the EU empire builders.

  5. David M Bell

    Educational institutions should be unbiased in their political thoughts, concentrating on educating the nation’s children. Drawing spurious connections between political parties and educational achievement is not helpful at all. UKIP may have benefited in areas where educational achievement is low, simply because they offered a plan to improve education using grammar schools. The other parties had no equivalent plans.

  6. kevin mansfield

    I am an international operations manager and I find it very insulting to say that UKIP voters are of low IQ are are not capable of passing exams.
    I have passed over twenty examinations including advanced accountancy.
    My daughter has passed 9 GCSE at A and B level, 4 A levels and is doing her business degree in Lincoln.
    I am proud to be a member of UKIP and will continue to support the party.

  7. This actually does not come as any shock to me, Not for the reasons many commentators on here suppose. I come from an Historically Labour Flagship town, Many years ago it became apparent that apart from one or two schools in our area mostly education was used as a holding facility for children. A retired teacher who I know attested to the fact that when she was still teaching they were told what level they were allowed to teach children up to no matter the intelligence of the children involved. As a child in one of these schools I remember being so uninterested with the lessons to the point I began to rebel through sheer boredom. I hasten to add at this point that my mother at the age of 12 was bi-lingual, my Uncle had a career that took him to one of the highest positions in the British Army both of them were educated at the same school in the town that i am speaking of But in an era when Politics was kept out of education. Only when I left school and was in a position to take command of my own education through adult classes and night schools did I progress. The point i am making is that, The main stream parties ignored, manipulated and abused the working classes by underhand means. Is it any wonder then that the people are looking for a party that will stand up for them and give them more of a level playing field so that their children may succeed. Being born into a family that can afford the best schools does not mean that they are the most intelligent. Generations of people in our so called democracy have been thrown away to be used as support for the elite, social engineering has condemned millions to a life of under achievement. I vote UKIP because the old order have betrayed people like me in order to keep the Status Quo. It is time for change. I am not saying that UKIP are the be all and end all But, the other parties are wrung out, they are defunct we need a party like UKIP to give a voice to the unheard masses of this nation.

  8. david dixon

    What I’d like to know is how you make the correlation between voters of UKIP and voters of other party’s ,,,,did you actually ask?or was you peeking behind the booths in the polling stations?,,,,and what actuall studies have you done on other party’s?,,,or are you just trying to pull a fast one to vilify UKIP ,,,if so could you please post your reasons for such a heinous crime,,,make then valid reasons mind,,,I don’t want to be accusing you and making assumptions of you,that it was just opinion and not based on fact ,,,,

  9. thicko_on_the_left

    Deeply insulting!

    We should never exclude education from democracy and from the development of agency, politics and social values that are being eroded by neo liberal pedagogy.

    Re the link between parents’ school experiences and the performance of their children, schools are easy bait because they are hierarchical. Education is still about ‘ability’ and social class with parents placed firmly at the bottom of the pile. There has been no nationwide effort to involve parents in challenging privatisation, no inclusive and national vision for education – no ‘conscientization’. The Labour Party has failed big time to engage the potential of education for democracy. It also failed to engage with those in deprived areas where there are high levels of unemployment and child poverty. They supported the rhetoric of ‘hard working families’ with no differentiation from the Tories. The politics and language of fear of the ‘migrant’ risk to jobs and over-stretched services changed the political landscape, not under-performing schools.

    No surprise there’s been a swing to the right. It is shameful that commentators blame parents’ school experiences, the weakest, the sick and disabled, the unemployed, IQ…ability. History is repeating whilst it’s being eradicated by closing down libraries, privatising schools and narrowing the curriculum – all to be rewritten by the corporate owners of technology. It’s a win win situation for the right.

    Who will the left blame next?!