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General Election 2024 – The Education Pledges of the Party Manifestos

18 June 2024

We look at the key policies of the main political parties for schools and academy trusts.

While the election polls continue to give Labour a significant lead over the Conservatives and therefore indicate that Labour will form the next government, it’s important to remember that polls are only a snapshot in time of a small proportion of the electorate. It’s what happens on 4 July 2024 that counts. We therefore summarise below the key manifesto pledges of the main political parties for schools and academy trusts.

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto presents the party’s track record in government since 2010 and how they would build on this should they form the next government.

They commit to protecting day-to-day school spending per pupil in real terms. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports the impact of rising inflation and large staff pay increases on school finances. Simply protecting current funding levels may not therefore address sector concerns.

The non-statutory Department for Education (DfE) mobile phone guidance would become binding on schools. Our article on the current guidance can be found here.

From September, the Conservatives would award a bonus of up to £30,000 tax-free over five years for new teachers in priority areas and key STEM and technical subjects. It is unclear if the full bonus will be awarded and how this will be spread over five years.

A future Conservative government would mandate two hours of physical education every week, supported by extending the PE and Sport Premium to secondary schools.

As announced previously, the Conservatives would

  • introduce the Advanced British Standard

  • require every young person to study English and maths to 18

  • create a register of children not in school

  • lift the admissions cap on faith schools and

  • maintain Ofsted’s single word judgements.

They would also put a parent’s right to see what their child is being taught on a legal footing and preserve the rights of independent and grammar schools.

Finally, the Conservatives would expand strong academy trusts (requiring ongoing sector engagement on what ‘strong’ means and other concepts such as thriving trusts) and deliver 60,000 more school places and 15 new free schools for children with special educational needs (which, given the pressure on the system, may not be adequate).

Labour

Labour’s manifesto presents a vision for transforming the education system to better prepare young people for life and work. As the main party in opposition, their focus is on the change we would see under a Labour government, which would

  • introduce free breakfast clubs in every primary school

  • open an additional 3,000 nurseries

  • recruit an additional 6,500 new expert teachers

  • update the Early Career Framework, to ensure it remains evidence-based

  • ensure any new teacher has, or is working towards, qualified teacher status

  • introduce a Teacher Training Entitlement to continuing professional development

  • reinstate the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, to help address the acute recruitment and retention crisis in support roles

  • focus on numeracy in early years to improve the quality of maths teaching

  • fund evidence-based early-language interventions in primary schools

  • create an Excellence in Leadership Programme, a mentoring framework to expand the school improvement capacity of headteachers and leaders

  • introduce Regional Improvement Teams to enhance support and share best practice

  • replace single word Ofsted judgements with a new report card system

  • bring multi academy trusts into the inspection system

  • introduce an annual review of safeguarding, attendance and off-rolling

  • launch an expert-led review of curriculum and assessment and

  • limit the number of branded items of school uniform and PE kit schools can require.

This is quite a list. While the breakfast clubs would be funded by closing non-domicile tax loopholes and reducing tax avoidance, the new expert teachers and the Teacher Training Entitlement, Ofsted reform and new nurseries would be funded by applying VAT and business rates to private schools. Whether Labour’s fiscal plan will generate the revenue to fund these pledges remains to be seen. The manifesto also lacks detail on how some pledges will work in practice, such as who will lead and resource the Excellence in Leadership Programme and Regional Improvements Teams and the impact on existing policies and structures. These details would likely be worked out in government.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat’s manifesto focus on tackling the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. To this end, they propose a teacher workforce strategy to ensure there are specialist teachers in every subject at secondary school. They would reform the School Teachers’ Review Body to make it independent of government and able to recommend fair pay rises for teachers, which would be fully funded.

The Liberal Democrats would establish a commission to build a cross-party consensus on broadening the curriculum and making qualifications at 16 an 18 fit for the 21st century.

They would improve vocational education, strengthen careers advice and links with employers and include arts subjects in the English Baccalaureate, with Ofsted monitoring curriculum content. Extracurricular activities would also be expanded, giving a new free entitlement for disadvantaged children.

Like Labour, the Liberal Democrats would end single-word Ofsted judgements. As with the Conseravtives, they would create a register of those children who are not in school.

They would tackle special educational needs provision by giving local authorities extra funding to reduce what schools pay towards the cost of an education, health and care plan and establish a National Body for SEND to fund support for children with very high needs. However, the manifesto doesn’t confirm the funding for these pledges.

The Liberal Democrats would redirect capital funding for ‘unnecessary new free schools’ to help clear the backlog of school repairs. This leaves the question of how the current shortage of school places will be met. They would extend the pupil premium to disadvantaged young people aged 16-18 and to children in kinship care and guarantee a child taken into care a school place within 3 weeks, if they need to move school.

While the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to form the next government, future governments do sometimes adopt the policies of other parties. It is therefore helpful, nonetheless, to see what the Liberal Democrats are proposing in their manifesto.

Greens

The Green Party manifesto envisions an education system that inspires a love of learning and values individual qualities over the standardisation of the current system.

They propose a significant increase in school funding by £8 billion. This would include £2 billion specifically for teacher pay rises. However, it’s unclear how the rest would be allocated. We presume this would go towards increasing per pupil funding but the condition of some school buildings does need to be addressed.

The Greens would also end testing in primary and secondary schools and abolish Ofsted but don’t say what would take their place.

Reform UK

According to Reform UK’s manifesto (or contract with the people) they would

  • introduce a patriotic curriculum in all schools, to include a balance between British or European imperialism and a non-European occurrence of the same, and a regular review of the history and social science curriculum

  • ban transgender ideology in all schools and require single sex facilities and parents of those aged under 16 to be informed of their child’s life decisions

  • protect 20% VAT relief on independent school fees

  • ensure the permanent exclusion of violent and disruptive students and double the number of pupil referral units.

While Reform UK are unlikely to form the next government and education is not their top priority, their appeal to some and particularly those have voted Conservative merits taking stock of their pledges, if we are to understand those who would vote for them.

Summary

As is always the case, each political party has its own take on what is best for our schools and those they serve. While there is some overlap between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in ending single-word Ofsted judgements and between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in creating a register of children who are not in school, each party has its own proposals for schools, children and young people. Whatever the polls may say as we approach the election on 4 July 2024 and whatever our own political preference may be, it will pay us well to take heed of the different pledges not just in understanding what each political party has to offer but also in understanding the communities we serve.

How Wrigleys can help

The education team at Wrigleys is expert in advising schools and trusts on all aspects of education law including admissions, attendance, behaviour, exclusions, special educational needs and safeguarding, as well as Ofsted inspections and staffing issues.

We are therefore ideally-placed to advise on the policies of the next government and the legal implications for schools and trusts.

 

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Graham Shaw or any other member of the education team on 0113 244 6100.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature.  The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Graham Shaw at Wrigleys.

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Graham Shaw

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