If you haven’t yet decided how to vote as the General Election approaches, here’s a summary of the different parties’ plans for your children’s education
IF THE LABOUR PARTY WINS
- The education budget will be protected in real terms – ie, will be inflation-proof – under a Labour government, while primary classes will be capped at 30 pupils.
- The admissions watchdog will be given new powers to change state school entry policies if they fail to give pupils ‘fair access’ to places. State schools will have to draw up admissions rules in agreement with neighbouring primaries and secondaries.
- A Director of School Standards will be introduced for each council area to keep check on all types of schools, including academies and free schools. They will be expected to identify coasting schools, create new school places and respond to parental concerns.
- All teachers will have to have proper teaching qualifications and Ofsted will be given direct power to inspect academy chains. A kite-mark system to be introduced for groups attempting to open new schools.
- Labour plan to create a new, gold standard technical baccalaureate, which will include vocational courses accredited by businesses. All pupils will have to study English and maths up to the age of 18.
IF THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY WINS
- Nick Clegg said he would disown key ‘ideological’ planks of the coalition’s education policy. He wants to see all children being taught the national curriculum by qualified teachers.
- The Liberal Democrats will provide 15 hours a week of free early years education to every family with a two year old.
- Every child born in 2014 will, by the time they leave primary school, be able to read and write at a standard identified to lead to success in secondary school and beyond. The Liberal Democrats claim to be the only party committed to protecting the education budget from cradle to college in the next five years.
- Liberal Democrats are calling for compulsory Personal, Social and Health Education in state-funded schools, including free schools and academies, where they will be taught a curriculum for life that includes age appropriate sex and relationship education.
- The party intends to triple the Pupil Premium for early years infants, currently worth £300 a year for three- and four-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.
IF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY WINS
- Schools that ‘require improvement’ will be automatically considered for conversion to academies unless they can set out a clear plan for rapid change. Under the current rules, only those schools judged “inadequate” could be forced into a change of leadership.
- The Conservatives plan a ‘war on illiteracy and innumeracy’. Year Six pupils will have to undergo new tests for times tables, long division, and multiplication, and be able to read and write using punctuation, spelling and grammar. Schools will need all pupils to pass in order to avoid having their leadership replaced.
- Hundreds more secondary schools will become academies and David Cameron has stated that exceptional grammar schools should be allowed to expand so they can educate more children.
- Schools will face a budget cut of an estimated 10% in real terms during the next parliament; education funding will not be inflation-proofed and it has been estimated that the impact will amount to a 7% fall in real terms.
- The Liberal Democrats said the Conservatives’ spending plans would lead to cuts to unprotected areas of the education budget of £3.1bn a year by 2020. A Conservative party spokesman said there are “no plans to scrap” the Pupil Premium scheme.
IF THE GREEN PARTY WINS
- Early years education will extend until the age of six. Small all-through schools such as those in Scandinavia will be introduced. Pupils will move to Youth School at the age of 14 when education may be provided in co-operation with workplace learning/training.
- Current testing regimes and age related benchmarking to be stopped, and abolishment of league tables in their current form. School class sizes will be no larger than 20 pupils, and smaller schools will be built at both primary and secondary level.
- The National School Curriculum will be replaced with a set of learning entitlements, and curriculum content will be devised to suit pupils’ needs and interests. This will include social skills, physical wellbeing, and practical life skills.
- Schools that remain in the private sector will have charitable status removed. No more Academies and Free Schools to be created and existing ones to be integrated into the Local Authority school system. No more privatising of state-funded schools, and gradual integration of grammar and secondary modern schools into the comprehensive system.
IF THE UKIP PARTY WINS
- UKIP have stated that they support the principle of Free Schools that are open to the whole community and ‘uphold British values’.
- Existing schools will be allowed to apply to become grammar schools and select according to ability and aptitude. The party is in favour of a major expansion of the number of grammars, and selection ages will be flexible and determined by the school in consultation with the local authority.
- They propose a universal voucher scheme that parents can use in state, faith and private schools. So parents who currently elect to have their children educated in the private sector would get their fees heavily subsidised.
- Pupils will be given the option to take an Apprenticeship Qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs, which can be continued at A-level.
WORDS Marina Gask