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Education briefing - General Election 2019 - What are the Parties saying about education ?

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With the General Election now just over 2 weeks away the manifestos have been published, with all of them - to varying degrees - containing promises on what the relevant party will do in the education sector if it is successful in the election.

In this briefing we summarise the key points taken as they are expressed in the relevant manifestos for (in alphabetical order) the following parties – Brexit; Conservative; Green; Labour; Liberal Democrat; Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party.

As education is a devolved function the policies will only directly apply to England, although Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party manifestos sets out what they would like to happen to education in Wales and Scotland respectively.

Click on the relevant link if you wish to skip straight to Schools, Further Education or Higher Education.

We are also publishing a companion briefing for institutions on the manifesto promises on employment; equality, diversity and inclusion and Brexit/immigration.


Brexit Party

Its “contract with the people” states that it will further expand parental choice — “academies and free schools have improved results”.

Conservative Party

The manifesto refers to the announcement made by Boris Johnson in his first months in office of an extra £14 billion in funding for schools, stating that this includes at least £5,000 a year for each secondary school pupil and at least £4,000 for each primary school pupil – and also includes £780 million in new funding to support children with Special Educational Needs next year.

The manifesto states that the Party is raising teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000 and promises it will:

• back heads and teachers on discipline by expanding the programme to help schools with the worst behaviour learn from the best and back heads to use exclusions

• continue to build more free schools

• expand ‘alternative provision’ schools for those who have been excluded

• deliver more school places for children with complex Special Educational Needs

• invest in arts, music and sport by offering an ‘arts premium’ to secondary schools

• invest in primary school PE teaching and do more to help schools make good use of their sports facilities and to promote physical literacy and competitive sport

• continue to help teachers tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying.

In relation to Ofsted inspections, the Conservatives, contrasting their position to Labour, say they believe that these serve “a valuable purpose not just in improving standards but in improving behaviour”.

Green Party

The Party says it will increase funding by at least £4 billion per year and reduce class sizes to under 20 in the long term; end academisation and bring all schools back into the control of local authorities; replace Ofsted with a collaborative system of assessing and supporting schools locally to improve standards; create a fully inclusive education system by ensuring accessible buildings, an inclusive curriculum and the provision of specially trained teachers across the school system and will train school staff in spotting and stopping sexual harassment and bullying.

On curriculum matters, it says it will:

• introduce an English Climate Emergency Education Act to support schools to teach young people about the urgency, severity and the scientific basis of the climate and environmental crises

• enable more outdoor lessons, where children will learn more about nature, animals and the environment, and a new Nature GCSE

• restore arts and music education in all state schools

• make sure all children get at least a half-day equivalent of sports in school

• end the opt-out of LGBTIQA+ inclusive PHSE classes at school

In relation to private schools it will:

• remove their charitable status

• charge full VAT on fees,

• subject the sector to regular independent audits

Labour Party

The manifesto says that Labour will make sure schools are “properly resourced” with increased long-term funding (with a cash uplift of £10.5 billion), while introducing a fairer funding formula that leaves no child worse off. It says it will also provide sufficient funding for schools to deliver mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education.

It says it will introduce a maximum class sizes of 30 for all primary school children; scrap Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs and baseline assessments and introduce an Arts Pupil Premium to fund arts education for every primary school child at an estimated cost of £175 million.

Other promises are to:

• bring free schools and academies back under control of parents, teachers and local communities

• take action to end ‘off-rolling’

• replace Ofsted and transfer responsibility for inspections to a new body, designed to drive school improvement

• transfer budget and day-to-day decisions back to schools, overseen by an accountable governing body with elected representatives

• place the responsibility for delivery of education will with local authorities, who will manage admissions and have responsibility for school places - including the power to open schools

In respect of private schools it will close the tax loopholes “enjoyed” by them and charge VAT on school fees.

Liberal Democrat Party

The manifesto promises to “reverse cuts to school funding”, allowing schools to employ an extra 20,000 teachers and reduce class sizes, restoring them to 2015 levels per pupil with an emergency cash injection and invest to clear the backlog of repairs to school buildings and allocate additional cash to local authorities to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child’s Education Health and Care Plan.

It says it will:

• introduce a ‘curriculum for life’, in all state-funded schools

• replace Ofsted with a new HM Inspector of Schools

• scrap existing mandatory SATs (replacing them with a formal, moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and some lighter-touch testing)

• replace existing league tables with a broader set of indicators - including information about pupils’ and teachers’ wellbeing, as well as academic attainment

It will require Multi-Academy Trusts to undergo external inspection, allow local authorities to open new Community Schools where needed, oppose any future expansion of grammar schools and devolve all capital funding for new school spaces to local authorities.

As part of a “better deal for teachers” it will:

• raise their starting salary to £30,000 and increase all teachers’ pay by at least 3% per year throughout the next parliament

• introduce a “clear and properly funded” entitlement to genuinely high-quality professional development for all teachers – rising to the level of 50 hours per year by 2025 - with extra training for teachers who are required to teach subjects at secondary level where they themselves do not have a post A-level qualification

In relation to mental health it says it will ensure that:

• all teaching staff have the training to identify mental health issues and that schools provide immediate access for pupil support and counselling

• there is a specific individual responsible for mental health in schools, who will provide a link to expertise and support for children experiencing problems

In addition it promises to:

• give schools a statutory duty to promote the wellbeing of their pupils as part of the inspection framework

• tackle bullying in schools, including bullying 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

• include teaching about how to use social media responsibly

The Party estimates that the cost of allowing schools to employ 20,000 teachers, reduce class-sizes and restoring funding to 2015 per pupil levels; halving the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child’s Education Health and Care Plan; and introducing a clear and properly funded entitlement to genuinely high-quality professional development for all teachers, will amount to £10.56 billion.

Plaid Cymru

The Party says it will invest an extra £300 million a year for schools and colleges in Wales – enabling it to expand capital investment in new school community hubs, together with developing new Welsh medium schools and 3-14 and 3-19 through schools where there is local demand.

Schools in Wales will be required to keep a register of bullying incidents related to sexuality, to take action where necessary and to involve students in anti-bullying initiatives.

Scottish National Party

The manifesto says that if the SNP is returned to government after the next Holyrood election, it will expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds.

Further Education

Brexit Party

It states that it will scrap the apprentice levy and introduce a new workable apprenticeship scheme.

Conservative Party

The Party says it will “carefully” consider the recommendations of the Augar Review on the balance of funding between universities, further education and apprenticeships and adult learning and will invest almost £2 billion to upgrade the entire further education college estate and create a new National Skills Fund worth £3 billion over the next Parliament.

It also says it will strengthen the civic role of colleges.

Green Party

The manifesto promises to:

• “revive the further education sector” to provide a wider choice of academic and vocational learning

• raise the funding rate for 16–17-year-olds, followed by an annual rise in line with inflation

• introduce a capital expansion fund for sixth form providers

• increase funding for adult education, creating a range of new adult education programmes for learners to access

Labour Party

It estimates it will invest approximately £4.7 billion.

It will align the base rate of per-pupil funding in post-16 education with Key Stage 4, providing dedicated capital funding to expand provision and bringing back the Education Maintenance Allowance.

It says it will also make lifelong learning a reality, giving everyone a free lifelong entitlement to:

• training up to Level 3

• six years training at Levels 4-6, with maintenance grants for disadvantaged learners

Liberal Democrat Party

The Party says it will introduce a new “Skills Wallet” for every adult in England, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives – at an estimated cost of £1.62 billion.

It will also invest an extra £1 billion in Further Education funding, including by refunding colleges for the VAT they pay and investing to clear the backlog of repairs to college buildings. It will help children from poorer families to remain in education and training beyond the age of 16 by introducing a ‘Young People’s Premium’.

Other promises are to:

• expand the apprenticeship levy into a wider ‘Skills and Training Levy’ to help prepare the UK’s workforce for the economic challenges ahead - with 25 per cent of the funds raised by the levy going into a ‘Social Mobility Fund’ targeted at areas with the greatest skill needs

• develop National Colleges as national centres of expertise for key sectors, such as renewable energy, to deliver the high-level vocational skills that businesses need

• expand higher vocational training like foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships

• establish a Student Mental Health Charter which will require all colleges to ensure a good level of mental health provisions and services for their students

Plaid Cymru

Says it will invest an extra £300 million a year for schools and colleges in Wales.

Proposals specifically for FE in Wales are

• to increase college lecturer pay to ensure parity with schoolteachers in terms of base hourly pay

• to establish a paid student officer position for each college to ensure student unions are securely established in the FE sector

• to make public transport free for all FE/6th form students and apprentices in Wales below age 21 in full time education or training

• that all apprentices under the age of 21 should be partnered with a Further Education college to ensure appropriate support, including access to college days or off-site training/education for key skills or other appropriate education choices

Higher Education

Brexit Party

It says it will require universities to incorporate an obligation to protect legal free speech; scrap interest on student loans and abolish the target to push 50% of young people into higher education.

Conservative Party

The manifesto says it will “carefully” consider the recommendations of the Augar Review on tuition fee levels, the balance of funding between universities, further education and apprenticeships and adult learning and will look at the interest rates on loan repayments with a view to reducing the burden of debt on students.

It says it will also:

• continue to explore ways to “tackle the problem” of grade inflation and low quality courses, and improve the application and offer system for undergraduate students

• strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities

• require the Office for Students to look at universities’ success in increasing access across all ages, not just young people entering full-time undergraduate degrees

• strengthen the civic role of universities

Green Party

It proposes to fully fund every higher education student; scrap undergraduate tuition fees and write off existing debt for former students who studied under the £9,000 tuition fee regime.

It says universities will be fully accessible, with courses being offered as learning experiences, not as pre-work training - education will be for education’s sake.

Labour Party

Party policy is to:

• abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants (at an estimated cost of £7.2 billion)

• fundamentally rethink the assessment of research and teaching quality

• transform the Office for Students from a market regulator to a body of the National Education Service, acting in the public interest

• introduce post-qualification admissions in higher education, and work with universities to ensure contextual admissions are used across the system

It says it will also develop a new funding formula for higher education that:

• ensures all public HE institutions have “adequate funding” for teaching and research

• widens access to higher education and “reverses the decline” of part-time learning

• ends the casualisation of staff

Liberal Democrat Party

The party says it will introduce a new “Skills Wallet” for every adult in England, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives – at an estimated cost of £1.62 billion.

On funding it promises to reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students and “establish a review of higher education finance” in the next parliament to consider any necessary reforms in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality.

Other specific manifesto promises at HE level are to:

• raise standards in universities by strengthening the Office for Students, to make sure all students receive a high-quality education

• make sure there are no more retrospective raising of student loan rates or selling-off of loans to private companies

• establish a Student Mental Health Charter which will require all universities to ensure a good level of mental health provisions and services for their students

• ensure that all universities work to widen participation by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups across the sector, prioritising their work with students in schools and colleges

• require every university to be transparent about their selection criteria

Plaid Cymru

In relation to HE in Wales it proposes to:

• undertake a review of the funding offer for Welsh domiciled undergraduate and post-graduate students, in respect of both tuition fees and living costs

• increase funding for degree apprentices in Wales

• guarantee to replace EU funding which supported research in higher education in the event of Brexit

• protect inward and outward student mobility post-Brexit, including participation in Erasmus+ or any successor schemes and cross-border study on the island of Ireland

Scottish National Party

The manifesto refers to education being one of Scotland’s “massive economic strengths'' having 4 of the top 200 universities in the world and that per head of population, “Scotland has more universities in the top 200 than any other country in the world, except Switzerland”. The SNP says there will be no return to tuition fees in Scotland.