The Conservative Party Manifesto – what's in it for schools?
We look here at the key Conservative pledges for schools following publication of their manifesto yesterday.
The manifesto confirms the pre-existing pledge of an extra £14 billion for schools which translates as an extra £7.1bn by 2022 (an extra £4.3bn in real terms), £5,000/year for each secondary school pupil and £4,000/year for each primary school pupil. However, it fails to say what the government will expect from schools in return which is relevant given that the Spending Review marked 'a new focus on the outcomes the government will deliver' with outcomes and metrics underpinning implementation plans for funding.
Also confirmed is the pre-existing pledge of an additional £780m in 2020/21 to fund high needs SEND provision, which will be wholly inadequate to address the funding crisis and is not accompanied by wider reform of SEND provision. The manifesto simply says the Conservatives will deliver more school places for children with SEND which will no doubt form part of the free schools programme.
Starting teachers' salaries
As expected, the previous announcement to raise starting teachers’ salaries to £30,000 is confirmed though it is unclear whether this will be funded beyond the extra £7.1bn.
Ofsted and 'outstanding schools'
Meanwhile, the manifesto confirms the Conservative belief in the value of Ofsted and their previous commitment to remove the inspection exemption for 'outstanding schools'.
Discipline and exclusions
The Conservatives will also 'back heads and teachers' on discipline and headteachers on exclusions. Though omitted from previous announcements, these policies were leaked to and reported by The Guardian before the Spending Review. However, is still unclear what precisely is proposed. We can only assume that they intend diluting the role of the appeals mechanism, which would not necessarily be welcome.
A Conservative government will help teachers to tackle bullying though, again, we are given no detail on what this will look like in practice.
As expected, the free schools programme will continue and expand.
Free schools will focus on expanding alternative provision.
There will also be continued support for innovation, such as the 11 maths free schools already pledged by the Conservatives.
A Conservative government will intervene in schools where there is 'entrenched underperformance'. While this points to sponsored academy status or academy re-brokerage for schools in this position, it doesn't indicate whether we would see a return to or alternative to the coasting schools policy.
Secondary 'arts premium'
In a nod to Labour, the Conservatives will offer an arts premium to secondary schools 'to fund enriching activities'. Like Labour, though, the manifesto doesn't give further detail on the funding level and criteria for entitlement nor does it say whether this funding is included in the extra £7.1bn.
Primary school sport
Primary schools will also benefit from investment in PE teaching and from help in making good use of their sports facilities and in promoting physical literacy and competitive sport. The detail is missing though, for example on the level of investment and whether this is included in the extra £7.1bn.
The manifesto is unexpectedly silent is on whether grammar school places will continue to expand under the selective school expansion scheme. It may be that this omission is an attempt to put some clear water between Boris Johnson and Theresa May.
An assisted places scheme, whereby funding for disadvantaged pupils to attend private boarding schools, is also omitted from the manifesto despite some commentators' predictions.
In many respects, the Conservative manifesto simply confirms policies that have already been announced by the DfE or leaked to The Guardian. As such, there's very little that's new for schools. This would appear to form part of their election strategy to focus on 'getting Brexit done' and delivering other public services which are seen to be core to their message.
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