Education and skills moved into the election limelight early on this week with some headline announcements on adult education, education reform and children’s mental health respectively and largely from the Opposition Parties. More on all this in a minute.
Away from the election, other developments this week have included a think tank report on campus free speech, a clutch of reports on skills and progress report on the College of the Future, an update on teacher wellbeing, some important proposals for improving the system of school exclusions and a new survey on bullying.
Here’s a few details on the last three of these starting with teacher wellbeing courtesy of the latest Teacher Wellbeing Index, where the charity Education Support and YouGov highlighted an all too familiar picture of work-related stress. Heavy workloads, an inability to switch off and a feeling of constant pressure seem to have contributed to what the report called ‘a concerning picture.’ Equally concerning was the survey on bullying, released in this case as part of this week’s anti-bullying week, which revealed some of the extent of the problem with verbal abuse seemingly on the rise. Finally briefly, school exclusions, where a report from the all-party law reform group, Justice, made some useful recommendations on how to improve the system, including the use of an independent reviewer.
And so back to how education is featuring in the election campaign where as indicated, three aspects have been highlighted this week, here’s some of the key points.
First, children’s mental health where the Labour Party this week pledged a ‘qualified’ counsellor for every secondary school in England with regular visits for primary schools. The Party has promised that costings and further details will be in its manifesto but has at least recognized that the key issue lies as much with system reform and getting all agencies to speak together, as anything else.
Second, education reform and in particular the emerging shape of Labour’s much vaunted National Education Service. Again we’ll have to wait for costing specifics from the manifesto but in his Education speech this week, Jeremy Corbyn spelt out ten principles. Most have been under discussion for some time and include scrapping SATs, ending the academy and free school programme, introducing an arts Premium, and scrapping tuition fees.
Third, and arguably most significantly given the lack of interest in this area in the past, a big boost from both the Lib-Dems and Labour on adult learning in the form of a £10,000 lifelong ‘skills wallet’ from the former and an adult entitlement to six years funded study from the latter. We await the small print.