Education Pledges from the Political Parties

There’s a useful website that may help you decide which political party you’ll vote for in the General Election.

https://voteforpolicies.org.uk/

The fact that it anonymises a series of political statements, so that you don’t know which party each statement comes from, helps to focus your mind on the pledges rather than your existing views on individual parties and personalities.

General ElectionIf you’re a political animal it’s soon apparent which party is which, but it’s fun guessing.

Below is a grid of all the basic policy statements on education that we’ve come across so far from each political party.

[NB- as we are based in England, we haven’t included Plaid Cymru, Scottish National Party or the Northern Ireland organisations].

We’ve added our comments in the right hand column.

The “owners” of the statements will be added at the end of each table.

We’ll make comments on each party’s education manifesto as and when they’re published.

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Vote for Policies: Education

 

Party Pledges 3D Eye Comment
A good primary school place for every child with zero tolerance for failure. As we said, it’s quite easy to identify the political party from the statements. Nobody is going to argue against “a good primary school place” for all children. Zero tolerance of failure isn’t aspirational. It’s intolerable, impossible and devoid of consideration for the individuals and their circumstances.
Turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an academy, and deliver Free Schools for parents and communities that want them. This is a policy from the existing government that is deeply flawed, in direct contrast with their proclaimed localisation strategy and should be curtailed – not continued or progressed.https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/free-schools-secrecy-and-freedom-of-information/
Support teachers to make Britain the best country in the world for developing maths, science and computing skills. The STEM subjects are important but so too are the Arts. Britain has always had a wealth of artists, writers, musicians, photographers, philosophers, sportsmen and women – equally valid, equally economically viable, equally in need of promoting.
Create three million new apprenticeships and make sure there is no cap on university places, so we have aspiration for all. We agree there should be more emphasis on quality apprenticeships but we’d add that these should be paid a decent wage. There shouldn’t be a cap on anything but the policy to encourage everyone to attend university has been shown to be deeply flawed. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/making-education-work-recommendations-part-two/
Guarantee a place on National Citizen Service for every teenager who wants it.  Active Citizenship is something that we’d agree with so that ALL young people have the opportunity to develop their social intelligence and empathy, but this National Citizen Service sounds rather alarming.

conservative_party_logoThese are the election pledges from the Conservative Party – briefer than any other. Is there a reason for this? Run out of ideas? Education not important? They know that their policies on education are loathed by many of every political persuasion?

 

Party Pledges 3D Eye Comment
Invest every penny we can in education from cradle to college – nursery, school, apprenticeships and college – so all our children get the chance to live out their full potential. We think we’ve heard this before but if they are asked to join a coalition government, will they stick to their promises? We agree that education needs investment. How it’s managed is as important as the money provided.
Aim to make 20 hours of free childcare a week available for all parents with children aged from 2 to 4, and all working parents from the end of paid maternity leave (9 months) to 2 years by 2020. This is a laudable policy pledge that we’d agree with. Inequality is still one of the greatest determinants of educational achievement and must be tackled as a matter of urgency. Means tested?
Introduce a Parent Guarantee that all teachers in state funded schools will be fully qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status and a minimum curriculum entitlement with a slimmed-down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include a ‘curriculum for life’ including financial literacy, citizenship and age-appropriate sex and relationship education.  We’d agree with a slimmed down National Curriculum. We prefer to see guidance and entitlement rather than the overly prescriptive curriculum that has evolved from its introduction over 25 years ago. We applaud the “curriculum for life” component of PSHE, SRE, Citizenship and Financial literacy. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/reviewing-the-national-curriculum/
Rule out profit-making schools, and only fund new mainstream schools in areas where school places are needed.  Nothing to disagree with here.
Extend free school meals to all children in primary education, as resources allow and after a full evaluation of free meals for infants, while ensuring that school food standards apply to all schools, including academies. We agree with the notion of free school meals (FSM) for all. It has worked for decades in other countries. However, if push comes to shove, we’d like to see some form of means testing as some of the money spent on FSM has taken spending away from other vital areas of educational development.
A two thirds discount bus pass for under 16-21 so they can afford to get to college and work Why not free?
Develop the skilled workforce needed to support growth with major expansions of high-quality and advanced apprenticeships, offering vocational education on par with academic qualification backed up with new sector-led National Colleges. We’ve always thought that vocational education should be on a par with academic qualifications – fully recognising that we all have a range skills and abilities. It’s time to redress the imbalance of valuing academic qualifications above other creative and essential skills. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/education-versus-schooling/
Expect all universities to support the national goal of widening participation across the sector. This will include running summer schools and setting up mentoring programmes between students/alumni and schools pupils. Again, we agree with this policy, particularly if universities opened their facilities, not as a recruitment drive, but a genuinely altruistic opportunity for young people to experience these valuable  resources.

Lib DemThese are the election pledges from the Liberal Democrat Party – many that we would agree with – but how many of these policies would they renege on in order to get into coalition? Let’s hope they’ve learned from their student finance fiasco.

 

Party Pledges 3D Eye Comment
Introduce an option for students to take an Apprenticeship Qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs which can be continued at A-Level. We’d agree with this pledge but this needs to be contextualised in a properly reviewed and revised 14-18 education policy. As we’ve said before, we would abolish GCSEs. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/the-diploma-disease-and-the-qualification-spiral/
Students can take up apprenticeships in jobs with certified professionals qualified to grade the progress of the student. Continual assessment of young people in apprenticeships is important and valuable for the young person involved.
Subject to academic performance, we will remove tuition fees for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering, maths on the condition that they live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after the completion of their degrees.  We disagree with this policy. The current situation means that students studying the Humanities and Arts are already subsidising the STEM subjects. We value music as much as mathematics, creativity as much as computation, vocational as much as academic.
Scrap the target of 50% of school leavers going to university.  We would agree with this policy.
Students from the EU will pay the same student fee rates as International students. Well, no disguising which political party this is? We are Europeans. The UK ought to abide by the funding policy agreed by the European Union.
Support the principle of Free Schools that are open to the whole community and uphold British values Our thoughts on “British Values” have been made clear in many posts –https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/british-values-family-values-human-values-whats-the-difference/ There’s no such thing as a British Value. We wholly disagree with the Free Schools policy.
Existing schools will be allowed to apply to become grammar schools and select according to ability and aptitude. Selection ages will be flexible and determined by the school in consultation with the local authority.  No, no, no. End of.
Schools will be investigated by OFSTED on the presentation of a petition to the Department for Education signed by 25% of parents or governors. Divisive beyond belief. We believe in the rights of parents but this isn’t a productive way forward. Parents already have the right to petition Ofsted.

UKIPThese are the election pledges from UKIP – not really their area of expertise, somewhat parasitical and borrowed from the Tories. There’s no concept of pedagogy here at all.

 

Party Pledges 3D Eye Comment
We will put teaching standards first, ensuring that all teachers in all state schools become qualified and continue to build their skills, with more opportunities for high quality professional development and new career pathways. We agree with qualified teacher status and the fact that every child is entitled to be taught by someone trained in teaching – and not something that they supposedly  learn in six weeks prior to taking up a teaching position. We’d prefer this party to use phrases such as “learning outcomes” rather than teaching standards. It may seem pedantic but we don’t  like the word “standards”.
We will introduce robust local oversight of all schools through new Directors of School Standards in every local area, responsible for intervening in underperforming schools so that standards are raised, and commissioning new schools transparently and fairly so that there is proper planning for new school places where they are needed.  We agree with this policy. We would hope that Directors of School Standards would have a clear and concise knowledge of wellbeing too. Our preferred title for these directors would be “Directors of Learning”, inclusive of learning how to live well. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/labours-new-vows-on-education/
We will transform vocational education in our schools and colleges, with a new gold standard Technical Baccalaureate for 16 to 19-year-olds, with rigorous vocational qualifications, accredited by employers, a high quality work placement and English and maths to 18.  We agree with a Technical Baccalaureate but as we’ve said above, this should be contextualised within a complete review of 14-18 education policy and provision. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/over-to-you-tristram/
We will build a new post-18 apprenticeship and vocational education system to drive up the number of quality apprenticeships. To help achieve this, we will require every firm that wants to get a major government contract to offer apprenticeships, and give businesses more control over the funding and design of apprenticeships in exchange for increases in the quantity and quality of training.  We agree with this policy.
We will end the flawed Free Schools programme and instead prioritise new schools in areas where there are shortages of school places. We agree with this policy. The Free Schools programme has been divisive with an inordinate amount of money wasted on the political whim of the Secretary of State. This must stop immediately.
We will extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four year olds, paid for with an increase in the bank levy. We agree with this but as we said earlier, we would like to explore means testing for this policy.
We will introduce a legal guarantee that parents of primary-age children can access childcare from 8am to 6pm through their local school. The Every Child Matters agenda of the previous Labour government promised this and didn’t deliver. It needs investment that didn’t happen because education, education, education in practical terms apparently meant standards, standards, standards. Education is far more than academic attainment. Good schools have offered breakfast and after school clubs but it needs significant investment.
We will introduce compulsory, age-appropriate sex and relationship education in all schools, and stamp out homophobic bullying in schools by ensuring all new teachers are trained to tackle it. This too is going to cost money. All teachers who are teaching SRE MUST be properly trained. We’d go further and say that PSHE should be compulsory and not just SRE. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/tag/life-lessonspshe-and-sre-in-schools/

Labour

These are the election pledges of the Labour Party – some good ideas that require significant investment. Mere lip service to the other aspects of the Every Child Matters agenda mustn’t happen again if Labour is elected to govern.

 

Party Pledges 3D Eye Comment
Promote a comprehensive system of local schools offering mixed ability teaching staffed by qualified teachers. Yes. We whole-heartedly agree with this policy.
Introduce smaller class sizes – no more than 20 students per class. Smaller classes do matter and if this is financially viable we’d agree to this. However, we might consider 24 children per class to be a good workable number. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/a-shocking-failure-to-provide-school-places/
Bring Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority system. There were problems with some local authorities. We’d prefer to see Local Education Boards that oversee autonomous schools collaborating with one another – sharing resources and expertise. Local accountability with peer mediation would also be something that we’d support. Whether there are LEAs or a locally managed education board, academies and free schools should be brought back into a properly integrated and cohesive system that is locally accountable.
Scrap university tuition fees. We believe that this is a pledge worthy of further investigation.
Abolish SATS, League Tables and Ofsted and replace them with the evaluation of schools by parents, teachers and the locally community. Yes, yes, and yes. We agree with accountability and positive, supportive criticism. No child should have to endure inadequate teaching and a lack of opportunities to learn. But schools need to be freed from the straitjackets of SATs and league tables. The expertise within schools should be harnessed in order that peer review is regular and ongoing. https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/tests-lies-and-high-stakes-still-sorting-sheep-from-goats/
Extend free nutritious lunches to all children. See our comments above on the Liberal Democrat pledges.
Restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16 and 17 year olds. We agree with this.

Green Party logoThese are the election pledges from the Green Party – egalitarian, aspirational and ones that many in education would like to see as a reality.

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Education is important and should have a far higher profile within this General Election campaigning than it currently has. Education is crucial for the present and for the future and we need to think very carefully about what’s on offer.

Whilst we realise that colleagues in schools have endured decades of persistent change, can we really afford to maintain the status quo? Is this what our children deserve? Are we yet giving them what they’re entitled to?

 

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About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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