The manifestos are out – but what are the main political parties pledging on education?
If you’d like to know more about the options for the General Election on 12th December, we’ve compiled highlights from each of the main political parties’ promises on schools and education, as well as other issues affecting parents.
The Conservative Party
With concerns about school funding increasingly a doorstep issue during the last parliament, the Conservatives have pledged a large increase in public spending on education and placed it at the centre of their manifesto. This includes:
- An extra £14 billion for schools across three years (breaking down to at least £5,000 per year for each secondary school pupil and at least £4,000 per year for each primary school pupil)
- The above sum includes, “£780 million in new funding to support children with Special Educational Needs next year alone”
Beyond school funding, their pledges include:
- Raising teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000
- Backing heads on exclusions and teachers on discipline, expanding a programme to help schools with worst behaviour learn from the best,
- Expanding alternative provision, and providing £500 million for youth services for young people
- £110 million ‘arts premium’ to secondary schools to fund enriching activities for all pupils
- Free school meals (FSM) to continue
- £2 billion to upgrade the entire further education college estate
Other issues for parents
- £1 billion fund to help create more high quality, affordable childcare, including before and after school and during the school holidays “so that working parents do not have to choose between their careers and their children”
- The party will legislate to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care, and look at ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave.
See the Conservative Party manifesto.
The Labour Party
Labour had already announced its intention to create a National Education Service (NES) – a kind of ‘NHS for education’, to encourage learning throughout a person’s life. The proposed NES is at the centre of the party’s General Election manifesto on education and schools. Specifically,
- Create a NES to “provide free education for everyone throughout their lives and will nurture every child and adult to find a path that’s right for them, by promoting all types of learning, skill and knowledge – technical, vocational, academic and creative.”
The Labour pledges break down further into the following educational phases.
- Create Sure Start Plus, with enough centres to provide a genuinely universal service, available in all communities, focused on the under-2s
- 150,000 additional early years staff, including Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators.
- Increase long-term funding, introducing a fairer funding formula (costed at £25 billion over three years)
- Ensure pupils are taught by a qualified teacher, every school is open for a full five days a week, and maximum class sizes of 30 for all primary school children
- Provide the necessary funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) (costed as £690 million for first year)
- Scrap Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs and baseline assessments, refocussing assessment on supporting pupil progress
- Introduce an Arts Pupil Premium for every primary school child
- Bring free schools and academies under the control of parents, teachers and local communities
- Replace Ofsted with a new inspectorate
- Take action to end ‘off-rolling’ by making schools accountable for the outcomes of pupils who leave their rolls
- Reform Alternative Provision
- Free school meals for all primary school children
- End tax breaks for private schools and ask the Social Justice Commission to look into integrating private schools into the state system
- Reform careers advice
- Mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education
- Ban fast-food restaurants near schools
Other issues for parents
- Increase paid maternity leave from nine to 12 months, and double paternity leave to four weeks
See the Labour Party manifesto.
The Lib Dems say their top priorities relating to parenting and education will be:
- Providing free, high-quality childcare for children of working parents from nine months
- Reversing cuts to school funding, employing an extra 20,000 schoolteachers, and clearing the backlog of repairs to school and college buildings
- Raising the starting salary for teachers to £30,000 and increase all teachers’ pay
- Scrapping mandatory SATs, and replacing school league tables with a broader set of indicators
- Clearing the backlog of repairs to school and college buildings
- Additional funding for SEND.
- Introduce a ‘curriculum for life’ in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education, financial literacy, environmental awareness, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship and age-appropriate Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content will be included in RSE.
- Establish independent body of education experts to oversee any future curriculum changes.
- Replace Ofsted with a new HM Inspector of Schools which will also consider the social and emotional development of children, and the wellbeing of staff and pupils.
- Improve careers advice and links with employers in schools and colleges.
- Abolish the English Baccalaureate as a performance measure.
- Ensure MATs undergo external inspection
- Oppose any future expansion of grammar schools and devolve all capital funding for new school spaces to local authorities
- Extend free school meals to all children in primary education and to all secondary school children whose families receive Universal Credit
- Ensure that all teaching staff have the training to identify mental health issues and that schools provide immediate access for pupil support and counselling
- Tackle bullying in schools, including on the basis of gender, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression, by promoting pastoral leadership in schools and delivering high-quality sex and relationships education
- Require inclusive school uniform policies that are gender-neutral and flexible enough to suit different budgets.
Other issues for parents
The Lib Dems say they want to make schools more accountable to parents, specifically,
“With academies standing outside the oversight of Local Authorities, and many MAT schools not even having a local governing body, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to raise issues with schools... Liberal Democrats want to restore accountability and give every child the chance of attending an excellent local school.” To achieve this, they pledge to:
- Give local authorities with responsibility for education the powers and resources to act as Strategic Education Authorities for their area, including responsibility for places planning, exclusions, administering admissions including in-year admissions, and SEND functions.
- Invest an extra £1 billion in Further Education funding, including by refunding colleges for the VAT they pay
- Introduce a ‘Young People’s Premium’, paid directly to the young person aged 16-18 to keep them in education.
See the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto.