By Dan Moorhouse
Why is Education likely to play a large part in the forthcoming general Election campaigns?
Both Nationally and locally Education has been big news, for all the wrong reasons, over the past few years. There have been scandals relating to governance, financial issues and concerns over standards. There’s ongoing pressure from Teaching Unions about standards and working conditions; and parents and pupils left confused and bewildered by the vast array of different options and systems in place in schools. Locally we have seen scandals in relation to two schools and results in Bradford at GCSE level last year were the second lowest in the country.
The Teaching Union, NUT, has launched it’s own Manifesto for Education. In it, they call for a number of key changes to the current system. Namely stopping state run schools being run for profit, ensuring that all teachers employed in the state sector are qualified, restoring the authority of Local Councils over local schools, changes to the curriculum to ensure a balance between vocational and academic routes and reducing the bureaucracy within the education system to allow teachers to concentrate on planning exciting lessons, rather than completing bureaucratic tasks.
This is fairly standard from a teaching union. Raise standards and reduce bureaucracy are common themes. However they are quite at odds with some leading parties in relation to how this should be achieved.
What the parties say:
The Conservative policy for Education is essentially more of the same. Plans to launch additional Free Schools were announced just last week; further adaptations to the National Curriculum have been identified: namely around the issuer of Sex Education and child safety. Examinations would continue to be single, terminal examinations: something heavily criticised by many within the Education system.
Labour, on the other hand want to place control of schools back into the care of Local Authorities. They describe the Free Schools programme as flawed and are critical of a system that they say now only serves 50% of pupils. The Labour manifesto says that they are committed to additional apprenticeships, power being devolved from Whiehall to local authorities and improvements to standards of teaching and learning.
The Liberal Democrats cite their record as a coalition partner. The expansion of free school meals for the youngest children; increased number of apprenticeships and the Pupil Premium budget – which is aimed at areas of deprivation, are all cited as being the result of their work in Government. Locally, David Ward MP has spoken out in Parliament about local Education issues.
George Galloway MP, of the Respect Party, has been highly critical of the state of Education in Bradford. He has called for the introduction of a Bradford Challenge to tackle what he calls the ‘deplorable’ GCSE results. He also raised a series of questions in Parliament about the issues at Kings Science Academy.
UKIP are supportive of the Free School concept and have stated that they would like a grammar school in every town. They also want to introduce the option of an apprenticeship to be available as an alternative to the non core GCSE’s. UKIP policy is also to remove tuition fees for Science, Technology, Engineering and mathematics courses at University.
Conservative Party Education Policy – https://www.conservatives.com/Plan/BestSchoolsAndSkills.aspx
Labour Party Education Policy Document – http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/agenda-2015/policy-commissions/education-and-children-policy-commission/education-and-children-policy-consultation
Liberal Democrat Education Policies – http://www.libdems.org.uk/education_children#
Respect Party, Education News – http://www.respectparty.org/tag/education/
UKIP Policy Issues – http://www.ukip.org/policies_for_people
The National Union of Teachers, Education Manifesto – https://www.teachers.org.uk/manifesto