On 21 June, the delayed Queen’s speech gave us a detailed insight into the planned legislative programme for the next two years. Whilst we might have expected it would be dominated by Brexit, out of the 27 bills (eight of which are Brexit related), the government has not announced any legislation at all for education. The education impact is all about what has been left out rather than what has been put in.
Repercussions for schools:
- No new grammar schools
- Plans dropped to stop free lunches for all infants
- School funding plans to be put forward at a later date
- Changes to how individual school budgets are allocated will go ahead
- Technical education to be upgraded.
During the election campaign, it has emerged from the doorsteps that worry over education cuts had been a bigger issue than the NHS for the Conservatives and this has definitely been reflected in the Queen’s speech.
According to The Guardian, shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, has said that Labour is planning to table more than 100 written parliamentary questions on education policies in the Conservative manifesto, to assess whether the party had truly ditched some of its more controversial proposals.
School funding uncertainty
The flagship grammar schools expansion policy was not mentioned. The Queen said the government would “look at all options” for new schools moving forward. Whilst that leaves the door open for future consideration, this could only be if the government can be sure it would be supported and this seems unlikely.
The Queen’s speech does commit to pressing ahead with the controversial changes to the funding formula for schools, but in a nod to reduce the pre-election negative press, the Conservative manifesto promised the government would “make sure no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula”. Worryingly that pledge was not repeated in the speech on Wednesday. Unfortunately, this promise was meant to be funded by scrapping free school lunches for infants but as this also seems to have been abandoned, it leaves school funding in a dangerously ambiguous position.
Theresa May however, has indicated that she is prepared to go back to the drawing board over school funding changes, so watch this space.