Lots more on education and skills this week as party leaders set out their respective stalls to business leaders at the start of the week and the big party manifestos started to thud through later in the week. Here’s a quick run through some of the main education-related headlines from those manifestos.
The Green Party was first out of the stalls with a manifesto built around five aspirations including a £1bn a year Green New Deal, changes to taxes, spending and public services and life under a ‘transformed’ EU. On education specifically, the party promised to increase school funding by at least £4bn a year, scrap national tests and Ofsted, end the academies programme, remove the charitable status from private schools, scrap tuition fees, raise the funding rate for 16/17-year-olds and invest £2bn a year in training and skills. Quite a package, to be funded through tax reforms and government borrowing.
Next up were the Lib-Dems with a 90+ page manifesto crafted around eight sub-plans for creating, among other things, a Green Society, a Fair Society, even a Better World, all under the strapline ‘Stop Brexit: Build a Better Future.’ The education and skills plans come in the first two chapters and focus on schools and early years, apprenticeship levy reform, National Colleges, Skills Wallets and increased R/D funding.
Much of this, including plans to scrap national tests, performance tables the EBacc and Ofsted, had been pre-announced, while others like an independent body of experts to oversee curriculum change have been carried through from previous manifestos. The promises for free childcare, to employ an extra 20,000 teachers, raise the starting salary of teachers, invest an ‘Augar’ billion in FE, set up a review of HE finance and introduce a wellbeing budget are among the standouts from this manifesto.
Then came the Labour Party, with a 100+ page document, plus an accompanying £83bn costing paper, providing, according to Jeremy Corbyn, ‘a manifesto of hope.’ That hope was to come, among other things, from increased spending on the NHS, free broadband, new social homes, funded public transport, ‘radical’ policies on the environment and a significant shift in tax and spending generally.
For education, earlier pledges such as those on reining back in free and academy schools, bringing back the schools ‘Challenge’ model, supporting young people’s mental health, re-introducing Education Maintenance Allowances, offering free L3 and 4/5 training, scrapping tuition fees and introducing a system of post-qualification admissions, still stand. Others remain to be worked up. These include the ‘new body’ to replace Ofsted, the system to replace SATs and the new funding formula for HE, while the new Social Justice Commission has been left with the task of resolving the private schools question.