Labour has launched its “Better Plan for Education”, which effectively is the education section of their General Election 2015 Manifesto. The Education Manifesto confirms many of the policies revealed in the former Education Secretary David Blunkett’s education policy review launched last year. Significantly, the Manifesto clarifies that the entire education budget will be protected in real-terms – not just the schools budget.
Labour’s education manifesto offers a distinct focus on the peripheries of education – early years (0-5) and further education (16+) – which Labour accuses the Coalition of neglecting. Labour emphasises the need for earlier intervention by restoring the Sure Start programme, while promising to raise standards in vocational education. The manifesto also reiterates Labour’s focus on the importance of ensuring all teachers have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), with a new label of “Master Teacher Status” for experts, while attacking the Coalition’s free schools policy as a failure. Character education and improving mental health support in school is also given equal billing to the major themes of early years, schools, teaching and further education policy.
The manifesto contains few if any new announcements, aside from a promise to give pupils “face-to-face” careers advice as Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt had previously suggested following an Education Select Committee report into the poor standard of careers advice for young people. It is also apparent that some of the vaguer policies that Labour had previously announced, such as Parent-led-academies” – Labour’s response to the Coalition’s the free schools policy – have been dropped. Notably absent is a redefined role for local authorities in education, which Blunkett’s review had hinted at – although it did not spell out what it would be.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Labour’s education manifesto is that aside from the criticism of free schools and the emphasis on the need for all teachers to hold QTS, there is little that makes it distinct from the Coalition Government’s policies in in its plans for 5-16 year-olds. This is why we should expect that a Labour-led Government will focus on education for 0-5s and 16+, with Tristram Hunt already promising to legislate to improve further education in the first hundred days of a Labour Government.
A list of the policies in their respective areas of education may be found below:
- Protect spending on the early years in real terms
- Restore the role of Sure Start as family hubs in the community, with an obligation to provide childcare and a focus on early intervention
- Extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four year olds, paid for by an increase in the bank levy
- Give parents a legal guarantee of access to childcare from 8am to 6pm through their local primary school
- Protect schools spending in real terms
- Tackle areas of underachievement, with new Directors of School Standards to support local schools to improve and respond to the concerns of parents
- Deliver smaller class sizes for five, six and seven year-olds, paid for by ending the wasteful Free Schools programme
- Require private schools to partner with state schools, as a condition of receiving Business Rates Relief
- Ensure all teachers become qualified
- Raise standards through new Master Teachers, experts in their subject
- Require all teachers to build their skills throughout their careers as a condition of remaining in the classroom.
- Improve school discipline by ensuring teachers are trained to control a class
- Support and improve school leadership with a new Leadership Institute and gold standard head teacher qualifications and training
- Deliver a new gold-standard Technical Baccalaureate for 16 to 18 year olds
- Ensure all young people study English and maths to 18
- Raise standards in further education, with new Institutes of Technical Education
- Guarantee all young people face-to-face careers advice
- Give every young person that gets the grades the right to a high quality apprenticeship
- Introduce new Technical Degrees delivered by universities and employers
Character and wellbeing:
- Ensure all schools deliver age appropriate sex and relationships education
- Update and strengthen the Citizenship curriculum
- Introduce compulsory work experience for 14 to 16 year-olds
- Give kinship carers access to support and give vulnerable children in kinship care priority in school admissions
- Give teachers better training in mental health awareness