With education appearing to be relegated further and further down the political agenda with every passing year, we have decided to take a look at the main policies being proposed by the four top political parties. Each party has stated that they are going to protect the education budget in one way or another, which currently stands at £92bn, but is this enough? Will they look to address the problems teachers and schools currently face? And more importantly will these education policies influence your vote?
David Cameron’s Tory party have pledged to protect the spend per pupil, “The amount of money following your child into a school – that will not be cut,” Cameron stated during his education speech. During this speech he also pledged there would be no cuts, ensuring all schools will be properly funded. Yet when pressed later on Cameron stated that while the budget is not cut, it would not raise with inflation, a cut in real terms. So is he failing on one promise already? Another main topic Cameron put forth was to build 500 extra free schools to try and counter the expected increase in pupils entering the education system, whilst any primary or secondary school rated as “requiring improvement” or “inadequate” by Ofsted, could potentially be given new leadership and converted to academies. Meaning one in five schools could be converted. Not only are the Tories looking to clamp down on school performance, but also the performance of pupils with a zero tolerance for failure. This will mean all children will have to have mastered the basics of reading, writing and maths or will face re-testing.
- 500 extra free schools to be built by 2020
- Protect school funding per pupil
- Zero tolerance to failing – immediate support to turn around failing or coasting schools
- 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3-4 year olds
The Labour party has also pledged to protect the current education budget, however contrary to the Tories, plan to keep the budget in line with inflation in the UK. This does mean that if pupil numbers increase as expected by 7%, spend per pupil will decrease as the budget will remain frozen, meaning the spend per pupil will lower with the increase. The party will also look to build new schools in areas most needed. One of the key policies Labour are looking to implement is to lower university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000, however this has given Miliband and senior labour figure Ed Balls a headache, as they cannot agree how to pay for these proposed cuts to university funds. Labours plan to fund this cut in tuition prices is from mansion tax, however will this be enough? Labour will also introduce a cap on class sizes for 5-7 year olds – a maximum of 30 children per class.
- Protect the education budget for 0-19 year olds from inflation
- Cut university tuition fees to £6,000 a year
- Ensure all primary schools guarantee access to childcare from 8am to 6pm
- Cap class sizes to 30 for 5,6,7 year olds.
Education is a main focus for Nick Clegg who stated that “nothing is more central to creating a stronger economy and fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential”. This tactic comes as a surprise as Clegg famously paved the way for an increase in tuition fees, a policy he was firmly against last election. Could this failure to stand by their main policy cost Clegg his seat? The Lib Dem party will look to enforce their policy on helping education by guaranteeing additional funding for nursery to 19 year olds with an extra £2.5bn put towards the children that need it most. This is “additional money to help close the gap” between the lower and middle class students Nick Clegg said in his education speech. This ensures that every class has a qualified teacher standing at the front of it, a strategy which will look to end child illiteracy by 2025. Nick Clegg also vowed to “get politics out of the classroom” streamlining the national curriculum.
- Guarantee qualified teachers, a core curriculum and sex education in all state schools
- A £2.5bn pupil premium for children that need it the most
- A strategy to end child illiteracy by 2025
- 15hrs a week free childcare from the end of paid parental leave
UKIP manifesto will look to introduce the option for students to take an apprenticeship qualification instead of four non-core GCSE subjects, which can then be carried out at a later stage with A-levels. Nigel Farage also proposes to remove tuition fees for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering and maths, the sole condition being that graduates work in the industry studied within the UK for five years after completing their degree. But how do UKIP plan on funding this? Will this lead people who aren’t committed to the course to take it, for no other reason than it’s free? The party will also look to charge EU students the same fees as international students. Existing schools will be given the opportunity to apply to become grammar schools and select according to ability and aptitude, with additional grammar schools being built in areas where required. Farage will also look to abolish key stage 1 SAT tests at primary school level as well as making first aid training part of the national curriculum. Finally, a policy that would be received well by most teachers is that UKIP will look to scrap teacher’s performance related pay.
- Allow secondary schools to become grammar schools
- Scrap fees for students taking degrees in STEM subjects*
- Abolish key stage 1 SATs tests at primary schools
(on condition they stay in Britain to work in the profession studied for five years upon completing studying)
So who will get your vote? Do you think any of the parties are truly looking out for the teachers and education sector of the UK? Do you think NUT members need to strike to get the budget protected further? Which party do you feel will look after the education budget the best: protecting teachers jobs, allowing pay progression and lowering the teaching workload? Have your say…