With campaigning for the General Election well under way we thought we would have a look at what the main parties’ Education policies are. Which way will you vote?
Free schools, funded by the state but run by parents, teachers or third parties outside council control, are the centre of Conservative thinking on schools. David Cameron has said that at least 500 new free schools will be built if they win the election.
All primary and secondary schools rated as “requiring improvement” or “inadequate” by Ofsted could be converted into academies and put under new leadership. This would affect one in five of the country’s 20,000 schools and about one million students.
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, is drawing up proposals to reform the teaching of English and Maths in state schools so that every child masters the essential skills of the “three Rs” (reading, riting and rithmatic – only joking!).
However, the Conservatives have also admitted that school spending per pupil could fall in real terms under a Conservative government – by as much as 10%.
Labour will keep existing free schools open if they take power. However, these schools will be subject to greater control from local authorities.
Labour will create some new schools, but only in areas judged to need new places. The new schools would also be called “parent-led academies” and not free schools.
The party would also create new independent directors of school standards to drive up results in local areas and intervene in troubled schools, as well as taking the views of parents into account.
Labour will guarantee childcare for parents of primary school children between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
One of the biggest controversies surrounding Labour’s education policy is its plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000. Tuition fees were introduced by the last Labour government and the current £9,000 maximum was introduced by the Coalition Government. The Lib Dems’ Vince Cable argues the plan is ‘financially illiterate’.
Labour says it will increase education spending at least in line with inflation. The extra funding will allow class sizes to be capped at no more than 30 pupils.
Education was once a big selling-point for the Liberal Democrats when they opposed tuition fees, but they burned their bridges with students when they paved the way for £9,000 tuition fees as part of their role in the Coalition Government.
Education will again be a key theme for the Liberal Democrats this year, Nick Clegg said: “The priority I want to focus on is education – because nothing is more central to creating both a stronger economy and a fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
Some of their achievements in Government have included offering free school meals to all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 and setting up a £2.5 billion Pupil Premium, which puts more money into schools for pupils who need additional help.
All existing schools will be allowed to apply to become grammar schools and be highly selective in their intake. Ukip would also offer students the option of an Apprenticeship Qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs which could then be continued at A Level.
Subject to academic performance, Ukip will scrap tuition fees for students taking degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering and maths on the condition that they live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after the completion of their degrees, whilst simultaneously scrapping the target of 50 per cent of school leavers going to university.
Ukip supports the principle of Free Schools that are open to the whole community but these schools must uphold British values and students should be taught ‘positive messages and pride in their country’.
The Greens would scrap Ofsted because of the ‘stress’ that it causes teachers and would replace it with a ‘collaborative system of monitoring school performance’ which allows teachers and local authorities to work together to maintain high standards.
They would reduce class sizes by spending a further £500 million on 15,000 more teachers to get classes down to an average of 20 pupils by the end of the Parliament.
The Green Party would instigate a move towards ending the need for private education by creating a programme of voluntary assimilation of private schools into the state sector. Schools that remain in the private sector would have charitable status removed and would pay all relevant taxes, such as VAT.
They would also abolish SATs and league tables whilst ensuring that all teachers hold Qualified Teacher Status.