Labour and the National Education Service – what their manifesto promises for schools
We look here at the key Labour Party pledges for schools and the National Education Service, following publication of their manifesto yesterday.
Free education for all
As expected, the manifesto confirms the Labour Party vision of a National Education Service (NES) providing free education for everyone throughout their lives.
Something for everyone
The NES will promote all types of learning, skill and knowledge: technical, vocational, academic and creative.
To do this, Labour will introduce a £150bn Social Transformation Fund to 'replace, upgrade and expand' schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses. However, the manifesto does not break this down for schools and the NES and so lacks the detail on specific funding levels and what this means for schools in practice.
Fairer funding formula
Again, the manifesto says Labour will introduce a fairer funding formula 'that leaves no child worse off' but gives no detail on what this means for primary and secondary schools though we can assume that funding levels will be levelled up (not down) to ensure all schools are funded equally.
Sure Start Plus
The manifesto also confirms the previous Labour announcement to reverse cuts to Sure Start and create Sure Start Plus as a universal service, available in all communities, focused on the under 2s. This resonates with the Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge to invest £1bn a year in Children’s Centres.
Labour will build on this with an entitlement (to be delivered within 5 years) for all 2, 3 and 4 year oldsto 30 hours of free pre school education per week and to additional hours at affordable, subsidised, means-tested rates. Early years providers will be funded directly. Labour will also extend childcare for 1-year-olds and move to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, with free on-the-job training for staff. There will be 'nearly' 150,000 additional staff, including SEN co-ordinators, and a national pay scale.
Maintained nursery schools
A Labour government will provide sustainable, long-term funding to secure the future of maintained nursery schools, though the manifesto doesn’t give further detail on funding levels and what 'sustainable' will look like in practice.
Free school meals
They will also introduce free school meals for all primary school children. The Liberal Democrats promise the same but also pledge free school meals for secondary school children whose families receive Universal Credit, which reflects the current position.
Arts pupil premium
A Labour government will introduce an Arts Pupil Premium to fund arts education for every primary school child. However, the manifesto doesn’t provide further detail including on the funding level and criteria for entitlement, though we can assume this will be available to pupils on free school meals.
Primary class sizes
Under Labour, we will see maximum class sizes of 30 for all primary school children. The Liberal Democrats will introduce smaller class sizes but aren't more specific.
SATS and baseline assessments
As expected, Labour will scrap SATs and baseline assessments.
They will also scrap Ofsted and transfer responsibility for inspections to a new body, designed to drive school improvement. Labour has already announced that they will introduce a new inspection system combining local authority "health checks" and "more in-depth" inspections where concerns are raised. However, the manifesto fails to articulate what this will look like or how it will work in practice.
Meanwhile, all pupils will be taught by a qualified teacher, impacting on academy trusts with funding agreements that allow non-qualified teaching staff. But more on that below.
Teachers will have more non-contact time to prepare and plan.
Teacher supply agency
There will be a new teacher supply service to recruit and retain experienced teachers although it is unclear how this will differ from the DfE's Teaching Vacancies service.
Public sector pay will be restored to at least pre-financial crisis levels (in real terms), by delivering year-on-year above-inflation pay rises, starting with a 5% increase.
National pay settlements
There will be national pay settlements for teachers.
School Support Staff Negotiating Body
For non-teaching staff, the School Support Staff Negotiating Body will be re-instated.
A Labour government will also review the curriculum to include black history, the Holocaust and the science of climate and environmental emergency.
There will be a common rulebook for all schools, set out in legislation, though there's no detail on what this will encompass.
Autonomy and accountability?
In an apparent contradiction, budget and day-to-day decisions will be transferred back to schools, overseen by an accountable governing body with elected representatives.
Labour will end ‘off-rolling’, where pupils are removed from roll to protect school results, by making schools accountable for the outcomes of pupils who leave their rolls.
They will also provide 'the necessary funding' for children with SEND but don't say what this will look like in practice nor do they talk about the much needed reform of SEND provision.
They will reform alternative provision to ensure an 'excellent education is the right of every child' but don't give specifics on what the reform will look focus on.
An £845m plan for Healthy Young Minds will more than double annual spending on children and adolescent mental health services, including a network of hubs to enable more children to access mental health services and almost 3,500 qualified counsellors.
Labour will invest to upgrade schools that have fallen into disrepair but do not quantify the funds that will be available or the scope of the programme.
Local authorities will be responsible for delivering education and support for young people and school places.
Local authorities will also have the power to open schools, removing the long held presumption that every new school will be a free school.
Academies and free schools
Free schools and academies will be brought back 'under the control of … parents, teachers and local communities'. Labour has already said that it will abolish free schools and would like to see academies operated by MATs constituted along co-operative lines, with greater local accountability. However, their manifesto fails to confirm if this is still policy.
London Challenge reborn
In a strange omission?, the oversight and coordination of schools (including continuous, peer-to-peer school improvement modelled on the London Challenge) will be 'carried out by regional offices of the …'. But that's where the sentence ends, leaving the question of which regional offices are being referred to. We can only presume not the offices of the Regional Schools Commissioners.
As expected, Labour will 'close the tax loopholes' or charitable status enjoyed by private schools. However, perhaps rolling back on previous announcements, they will ask the Social Justice Commission to advise on integrating private schools and creating a comprehensive education system.
Labour we will take back all PFI contracts over time with consequences for those schools occupying PFI premises.
They will also require that all services procured from the private sector are assessed against best practice public service criteria, including collective bargaining, fair wage clauses, environmental standards, equalities policies, tax compliance and the application of pay ratios.
As expected, the Labour Party manifesto confirms many of the policy positions they have already trumpeted as part of their National Education Service, reflecting traditional Labour Party values. However, the manifesto is strikingly aspirational with little detail on funding, despite the funding competition with the Conservatives, or on how the pre-existing cornerstones of the National Education Service will work in practice.
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.
You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Education on Twitter here
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