Election 2019 Manifestos – What Can Schools Expect?
We look here at the manifesto pledges schools can expect to see ahead of the General Election on 12th December.
In recent days, the Resolution Foundation has suggested that Government spending is likely to return to 1970s levels over the next parliament, whichever party wins the General Election. Given recent spending pledges by the Conservatives, it is therefore clear that schools funding will be a key battle ground during the General Election campaign. The Conservatives have already promised an extra £7.1bn by 2022 (an extra £4.3bn in real terms) while the Liberal Democrats have demanded an emergency £2.2bn cash injection and pledged an extra £10bn a year. Labour has today announced a £150bn social transformation fund for schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses but has yet to provide the detail on schools funding. As always, the devil will be in the detail for each party with the real-terms benefit and impact on the national funding formula and areas of highest disadvantage receiving scrutiny. Schools should therefore look for the further detail in each manifesto and the inevitable analysis that will follow.
While the Conservatives have earmarked an additional £780m in 2020/21 to fund SEND provision, this will be wholly inadequate to address the funding crisis. It is also unclear whether the Conservatives will undertake to reform SEND provision. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats want to "end the crisis" in SEND and "mend the hole" in SEND funding. They say they will provide "thousands of pounds" for every child with an education, health and care plan, to free up school budgets for children with moderate additional needs, and create a new SEND strategy "so that schools, councils, healthcare providers and social services work together in the best interests of the child". Given the strength of Liberal Democrat feeling on the issue, schools should expect to see further detail in their manifesto. It remains unclear, however, whether Labour and the Greens will do likewise though one would expect to see some detail given the role of the local authority in SEND provision.
Starting teachers' salaries
The recent announcement to raise starting teachers’ salaries to £30,000 is widely expected to feature in the Conservative manifesto. However, this must be funded beyond the extra £7.1bn, otherwise the burden will fall on schools. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens are not expected to make a corresponding pledge on starting salaries.
Ofsted and inspection
However, they do want to scrap Ofsted with Labour pledging to introduce a new inspection system combining local authority "health checks" and "more in-depth" inspections where concerns are raised. We should look for further detail in the Liberal Democrat and Green manifestos. Meanwhile, the Conservatives will retain Ofsted and confirm their policy to remove the inspection exemption for 'outstanding schools'.
SATs and assessments
Labour has committed to abolishing SATs and reception baseline assessments while the Greens intend to scrap SATs and the Liberal Democrats want to scrap primary testing.
National Education Service
The proposed National Education Service will also feature in the Labour manifesto, founded on the principal of free education for everyone throughout life. This is expected to span free childcare, a new Sure Start programme, free vocational and technical education and national guidelines to ensure consistency. That much we know. What we need is further detail in the manifesto.
While academies will continue under the Conservatives, their manifesto needs to confirm the priority to be given to the programme, given the slow down in academy conversions under Theresa May. Labour has said it will not abolish academies but would like to see them operated by multi academy trusts constituted along co-operative lines, with greater local accountability. However, their manifesto needs to confirm if this is still policy. The Liberal Democrats and Greens also need to confirm their policies on academies.
Free schools will also continue under the Conservatives, perhaps with a greater focus on alternative provision. However, Labour has said it will abolish the programme. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have said they will abolish the presumption that any new school will be a free school while the Greens need to confirm how they see free schools operating within a local authority framework.
As at present, the Conservatives are expected to continue with the expansion of grammar school places under the selective school expansion scheme.
The Sunday Times has also indicated that the Conservatives may re-introduce funding for disadvantaged pupils to attend private boarding schools which, if confirmed, would be reminiscent of the programme spearheaded by Lord Adonis under the Labour government.
Meanwhile, Labour has said it will remove charitable status and its tax benefits from private schools though has yet to confirm the conference motion to integrate private schools into the state sector by redistributing their assets.
While we await the election manifestos, we're obviously unable to confirm the final policies of each party. However, we can anticipate the battle lines between the parties which are drawn along fairly conventional lines. That said, the one peculiar feature is the competing promises on school funding which, this time, is not on the question of whether funding should increase but by how much, which does turn the tables on conventional party politics.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors