The Education Vote 2010

April 14, 2010

Is education the defining issue of the election for you? If so, to which party should you entrust your precious vote? Each of the main political parties has now published its manifesto. Here is my summary of where each party stands on education, and my own view of who to trust and who to avoid. The table below summarises each Party’s position on some of the key issues in education.

Conservative Labour Liberal Democrat
Funding No extra funding, no promise to protect budget. Pupil premium for disadvantage (from existing funds) Guarantee to maintain or increase spending on front-line schools. Pupil premium for disadvantage. Promise of extra £2.5bn pupil premium directed at disadvantaged children.
Sure Start Cut back to most needy families; focus more on early intervention. Payment by results Increased spending and more cooperatively run Children’s Centres No mention
Early Years New Early Years support team for parenting, but no mention of EYFS Increase to 15 hours for 3-4 year olds with more flexible provision EYFS to be replaced with more flexible, simpler curriculum
Primary Curriculum Every child, if capable to read and be tested at 6 yrs. Single subject teaching. Knowledge focussed curriculum. Rose Review reforms. More flexibility. One to one tuition. 3Rs guarantee. Replace National Curriculum with a slimmed down Minimum Curriculum Entitlement
KS2 Tests Keep, and make more rigorous Keep More limited testing with more teacher assessment
Academies Expand Academy programme and extend to primary schools. Establish Technical Academies with vocational focus Further Academies and more Federations of schools Academies to be replaced by “Sponsor-Managed Schools” involving parents and other providers but commissioned by and accountable to local authorities
Parent power The flagship proposal. Parents will be able to set up their own schools or take over local schools earmarked for closure. Parents given the power to trigger ballots on school leadership where they are dissatisfied and bring in new management Parent groups could be involved in running “Sponsor Managed Schools”
Teacher training Expand TeachFirst with TeachNow (for career changers) and Troops to Teachers (for ex-service personnel)

New graduates will need a 2:2 to get funding for ITT

Expansion of TeachFirst Expand Teach First and school based GTP
14-19 education Every pupil to have the chance to study separate sciences at GCSE; 20,000 additional young apprenticeships; schools and colleges to offer workplace training More to study single sciences and MFL; one to one and small group tuition for GCSEs; Diploma programme; entitlement to apprenticeships for all; more freedom for FE colleges 14–19 year-olds the right to take up a course at college, rather than at school, if it suits them better; aspiration to close funding gap between 6th forms and FE; no rise in school leaving age
Exams Schools to have freedom to offer  international exams. Review of all qualifications in 2013 with changes to take effect in following Parliament General Diploma to bring together GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications
Accountability More rigorous and targeted Ofsted, reporting on performance only in teaching and learning.

Any school that is in special measures for more than a year will be taken over immediately by a successful Academy provider.

School report cards will give each school an overall grade for its performance. No mention of Ofsted, but assume the new framework will continue. Establish the Education Standards Authority to oversee exams, school standards and the curriculum, incorporating QCDA, Ofqual and Ofsted
SEN End to Special School closures and bias towards inclusion in mainstream More specialist dyslexia teachers and better teacher training for children with autism. More teachers for special schools. Improved statementing process Diagnostic SEN assessments for all 5-year-olds; improve SEN provision and improve SEN training for teachers.
Behaviour Give teachers more protection from false accusations; and reinforce powers of discipline by strengthening home-school behaviour contracts. “Zero tolerance”. Strengthen home-school agreements; improve PRUs; more anti-bullying work Improve discipline by early intervention to tackle the poor basic education; confront bullying and include bullying prevention in teacher training
Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Heads will be given the power to pay good teachers more. Pay freeze. 1% pay rise cap. Licence to teach. Make national pay and conditions rules “more flexible” to attract excellent teachers

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So which party is offering education the best deal?

I’ll start with the Tories. I’ll try really hard to be objective about them but, I confess, I grew up under the education policies of Thatcher and Keith Joseph and I find it hard to forget how schools were turned into an ideological battleground. So I’m not objective.

Conservative: we will enable parents to start new schools

You’ll have got your invitation? To join the Conservative Government? The seductive narrative the Tories offer is that the state will be rolled back leaving ordinary people free to run their own lives. One of the big sound bites of the launch was for “parents to start their own schools”, including the offer to save local schools faced with closure. Sounds good? But remember – there is no extra money to fund these new schools. All the cash will come from existing education budgets. And having parents running schools sounds like a nightmare to me. And I’m a parent governor, so I should know. My view is that Tory policies will be a disaster for state education. It isn’t only the hankering after an outdated model of education based on schemes of single subject knowledge that makes me uneasy. It is the flagship promise of a host of new schools, set up by and for the elite, accountable to no-one. Without strategic direction, we will have anarchy. Existing schools will be drained of money leaving the vast majority of pupils worse off as a result.

Labour Manifesto: sounds familiar?

Labour’s manifesto commitments will inevitably sound familiar because they build upon the initiatives that have been pursued over the past 13 years of government. So there will be more Academies and new Trust schools run through cooperatives of parents, teachers and the community. The Rose Review reforms will be introduced to give more flexibility and creativity in the primary curriculum. Parent and pupils will be guaranteed minimum standards of provision including access to one to one tuition if they are failing to achieve basic standards. In addition, parents will be given the power to trigger ballots on school leadership where they are dissatisfied. Labour have promised to protect school budgets from spending cuts but are not being as apparently generous as the Lib Dems. Labour does know about schools and it has learned a lot in the last 13 years. It realises its early approach was too prescriptive and that some of the huge investment in schools has been wasted. But I think it understands what needs to happen next. I trust Labour to do a decent job.

Liberal Democrats: Extra £2.5bn for education

Like both the other main parties, the Liberal Democrats promise a pupil premium to provide extra cash for schools educating disadvantaged children. In contrast to the others, the Lib Dems put a price on it. They will provide an extra £2.5bn (with the money coming from closing tax loopholes, they say) that they want schools to use to reduce class sizes to 20, provide one to one tuition and catch up classes in secondary schools for an average of 160 pupils. These are ambitious targets and there must be some doubt about whether £2.5bn will be enough money. As well as this big commitment, the Lib Dems have a host of other education proposals, many of which I think teachers will like. They make a good case and, unlike the Tories, seem to understand state education. And if I were in a Tory/Lib Dem marginal, I’d vote Lib Dem.

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8 Responses to “The Education Vote 2010”


  1. Terrific post – very clear and makes things easy to understand in one place !

  2. Luke Davis Says:

    Such is the quality of your post that I might just post about it myself. Well done.

  3. Jules Says:

    The LibDems look good good on paper, but they’re never going to be in a position to deliver, so that rules them out. The Tories – well, the parent-power idiocy is risible.
    Which leaves Labour.
    Yay!
    Truly, Labour is the only party which can be trusted to deliver. Even if you’re wavering, just look at their commitment to SureStart and Early Years. Solid, dependable and inclusive.

  4. Dan Bowen Says:

    excellent summary, thanks again.

  5. Zoe Ross Says:

    A really excellent post that’s really cut through the headline-grabbing hyperbole & reminded me of why I need to use my vote – thank you!

  6. Caz Says:

    Thanks for the summary. But as those of us at the sharp end know, it’s all bluster from the lot of them. While successive governments ignore the real problem in our schools – behaviour – improvements are going to be minimal, whoever’s in power.

  7. Lucy Says:

    What a fab and clear explanation. Well done on giving me all the information I need to make the right choice!! 🙂

  8. Tom Richmond Says:

    I agree with Caz that behaviour is a major problem, but the solutions are not easy to come by. The Conservative Party have talked about giving headteachers more power to deal with unruly pupils, but until the unruly nature of increasing numbers of pupils is addressed, the problems with continue.

    Unfortunately, this would require a review of childcare provision, family policy, the benefits system, taxation, welfare and goodness knows what else. Not exactly a small task.


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