Vote education

Vote education

Now all the manifestos have been published I’ve taken a look at the three main political parties’ education pledges.

I’m pleased to see that funding is key and all the parties have recognised that more investment in schools is needed if we’re to thrive as a country. The most important issue is per-pupil funding and this must be addressed in school budgets across the country.

I certainly agree with the Conservative Party’s desire to level this up. It should be the same everywhere – £4,000 for primary children and £5,000 for secondary.

Teacher salaries to start at £30K is also very welcome and both the Lib Dems and Conservatives have pledged this. This will help address the shortages and draw more people into the profession. They are right to also promise an annual 3% rise.

One of the more alarming aspects for me across the manifestos is the Labour and Liberal Democrat’s desire to scrap Ofsted, league tables and SATs. All of these are essential for accountability.

The Labour Party is also intent on looking at the curriculum and this will no doubt mean a return to progressivism and a failure to teach the basics – something the new curriculum has focused on. This must be resisted, and the Conservatives are correct to maintain these reforms and ensure there is accountability through SATs tests and Ofsted inspections.

Without external accountability, it is impossible to be sure how schools and children are performing. It is simply not good enough to allow teachers to figuratively ‘mark their own homework’ by setting their own classroom assessments or tests. These are not a national measure. This will be a disaster as no one will know what’s really going on. We have to ensure that when children move up from primary to secondary school, they possess the basic skills in literacy and numeracy.

I also firmly believe that Academies and Free Schools must maintain their freedoms to be able to innovate. Bringing everything under highly centralised and local authority control will just stifle creativity and excellence.

Unfortunately, this is Labour Party’s ‘one size fits all’ attitude towards education and it will fail if it was ever implemented – and sadly the Lib Dems seem to be heading in the same direction.

I note that Labour would also put local authorities in charge of school admissions which would again limit parental choice. They would actually dictate which school your child would go to and even though there isn’t much choice now in the state system, it is better than none at all.

When it comes to private schools, I’m a firm believer in parents’ freedom to choose this option if they wish to spend their money in this way. If parents can afford to send their child to a private school that should be their right and choice. Having private schools relieves the pressure on state schools as they do not have the capacity and resources to take on every child.

But if the Labour Party wins the General Election and puts VAT on private school fees this will really backfire and impact everyone. A hike in fees will severely affect middle-ranking private schools and cause many closures as many parents on modest incomes would no longer be able to afford them. The VAT collected would be much less and on top of that, all these pupils would now need state school places.

The key issue, in the end, is the economy and the success of the UK as a productive nation. Spending on education benefits the future and it must be generous. However, the spending must not lead to economic problems. This is a difficult balance. Labour’s spending plans seem completely untenable, but I also believe the Conservatives could be more generous.

There is a particular problem with special needs provision, as this is something that needs far more funding and the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats recognise that.

Overall I’m disappointed that not one party is being very radical when it comes to education.

Labour’s National Education Service is nothing new. It’s just a rebranding of what would have been offered in the 1970s. The Conservatives, disappointingly, seem to be playing it safe. I would like to have seen them take up Theresa May’s earlier drive to re-introduce more grammar schools alongside a new 14+ education provision for more vocational and technical training.

We still have too much of a one-size-fits-all education system that is too focused on academia and neglects the many other talents our young people possess – talents if harnessed would greatly benefit this country.