In the run up to one of the least predictable general elections of all time*, I have been learning about the education policies in the manifestos of some of the key parties. It seems unlikely that any one party will have a majority by the time we wake up tomorrow (which leaves some wiggle room for our wily politicians to dump less popular manifesto ‘promises’ in the name of compromise) but it’s interesting to see what ideas these politicians have in mind for our students – and for us their teachers! It will also be interesting to see what policies make it through the delicate negotiations of the next few weeks.
* Does anybody else feel it’s a bit like betting on the Grand National?
So here’s my break down of some of what the parties are telling us about what they want to see happen with education over the next 5 years:
Spending seems a sensible place to start the comparison. Nick Clegg said in February that the Lib Dems would prioritise education spending, ‘because nothing is more central to creating both a stronger economy and a fairer society’ and his party have promised to spend 2.5bn more than Labour and 5bn more than the Conservatives. Labour says it will increase education spending at least in line with inflation whilst David Cameron has admitted that school spending per pupil could fall in real terms under a Conservative government.
Qualified Teacher Status
I whole-heartedly believe our students have the right to be taught by a qualified teacher. The idea that anybody can do it, without specialised training, undermines one of the most important and influential professions in this country. I’d certainly be questioning my doctor, lawyer or nurse if they told me that they had no specialist qualifications or training. Labour and Green Party are guaranteeing that all teachers in state schools will be qualified as are the Lib Dems with the proviso that some of those teachers might be working toward QTS. There are no such guarantees in the Conservative manifesto but that’s hardly a surprise given their ideas about having unqualified teachers in Academies and Free Schools.
If you are a teacher, or training to be one, you will already know the impact that class size has on your ability to offer support and guidance to individual students. Labour’s manifesto promises that they will cap class sizes at strictly no more than 30 pupils whilst the Green Party cut that by a third to 20 in theirs.
Research shows that the single biggest impact on a student’s achievement is the quality of teaching they receive. How high standards can be achieved and maintained is a contentious issue. Labour have suggested appointing independent Directors of School Standards whilst the Tories threaten to turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an academy (they’ve also promised that at least 500 free schools will be built).
There’s some interesting little nuggets in the manifestos that don’t fit into my other four categories. The Greens seem to be promising things lots of teachers would like: the scrapping of Ofsted because they think It causes too much stress for teachers; the abolishment of SATs and league tables and the end of performance-related pay. The Conservatives are keen on a National Citizen Service, the Lib Dems want to extend free school meals to all Primary aged pupils and Labour are keen that all young people study English and Maths to age 18.
I guess only time will tell which policies make it through the final edit and which will be left on the cutting room floor.
I’m half tempted to stay up all night to see what happens but I’m pretty sure it’ll be a few days before we know which parties will form our next government.