Labour 2017 Education Policies
Angela Rayner need have no more sleepless nights as the Labour Party Manifesto has been revealed this week, and it shows how Labour plan to build on their already publicised policies of smaller class sizes and free school meals for all primary school children.
The key principles are that the party will make sure schools are properly resourced; it will promote co-operation and strong leadership; it will ensure democratic accountability; and a wide choice of courses to enable every child to find the right learning path for them.
Some of the plans are not yet clearly costed e.g. pay increases for schools and where this money will come from, or come at a high price e.g. free school meals for all primary children. Other plans are not yet padded out, such as how greater involvement in the curriculum or how teacher workload will be reduced.
Apart from the quick win popular pledges such as abandoning baseline tests and reviewing SATs, Labour policy focuses on school staff themselves. It promises the teaching profession more direct involvement in the curriculum; better SEND teacher training; reduced monitoring and bureaucracy; and a consultation on teacher sabbaticals, all of which will be well received. It also promises money for more school nurses.
There are some pay and funding crowd pleasers too, such as ending the public sector pay cap; reintroducing a support staff negotiating body as well as a national pay settlement for teachers; undoing the requirement for schools to pay the apprenticeship levy; and increasing funding for 16-18 year olds.
Labour will also introduce an arts pupil premium for primary schools and will review the EBacc subjects to include the arts.
Conservative 2017 Education Policies
Theresa May also launched her manifesto this week. Conservative policy is a continuation and formalisation of September’s Green Paper proposals and other announcements made since Mrs May became Prime Minister. There are no significant surprises other than scrapping universal infant free school meals in favour of breakfast clubs.
A focus on more good school places dominates and incorporates much of the Schools That Work for Everyone agenda: free schools; university and independent school sponsorship; more selective education; and getting rid of the 50% cap on faith-based admissions for over-subscribed free schools. There is also a commitment to establishing a maths school in every major city mirroring the success of the Kings Maths School in London.
The knowledge-rich curriculum is still big; every 11-year-old will need to know their times tables by heart (maybe that test will come back) and there will be a curriculum fund to develop knowledge-rich curriculum materials. The EBacc uptake is back with a more realistic 75% target and KS3 accountability is on the menu (maybe that test will come back too!)
Fair funding and pupil premium stay with a promise of an additional £4 billion increase to the overall schools budget and no school having its budget cut in cash terms because of the new national funding formula. This is partly paid for by scrapping universal infant free school meals and replacing it with free breakfast for all primary children, an idea that has been promoted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and EEF research.
Efforts continue to address the teacher recruitment crisis with a continuation of bursaries, waivers on student loan repayments as long as you remain a teacher, and the opportunity for TAs to become teachers through the apprenticeship route.
The government’s commitment to fund nurseries grows with the addition of a presumption that all new primary schools will have a nursery.
So how to decide?
Two very different education visions to choose from and in my opinion, neither particularly inspiring. Perhaps the strategy is to identify the key issues that concern you the most or those that you are most attracted to. Lunch or breakfast? Grammars or smaller class sizes? Knowledge-rich curriculum and testing or arts pupil premium and EBacc? Either way, we’ll know after 8 June.
Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter for further updates as they develop.