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.
|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|
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.