General Election education policies: What every major party has said ahead of manifesto release

By Daniel Brookes, Harry Jones and Mark Stillman
November 16, 2019, 12.25

Education policies are set to be high on the list of issues discussed in each party’s campaign ahead of the General Election.

Manifestos are due to be released on Monday, just three and a half weeks before voters go to the polls on December 12.

With the school system widely acknowledged to be in need of more funding, we take a look at what is likely to be on each party’s agenda with that topic in mind.

Brexit Party on education

Approaching their first General Election, the Brexit Party does not yet have a spokesperson for education in place, but party leader Nigel Farage has outlined their plans.

He believes that the country’s children are not supporting Brexit because it is being taught as an “evil” idea at school.

One of the party’s main targets is to scrap all interest paid on student loans across the UK.

They also want to abolish the apprenticeship levy – a tax on UK employers to help fund apprenticeship training – and introduce a new scheme in its place.

In Wales, the Brexit Party also want to oppose the Welsh government’s proposed smacking ban between parents and children.

Conservatives on education

The Conservative Party have pledged to pour funds into education, promising to put £7.1bn into English schools until 2022/23 as well as another £400m into creating more schools and sixth forms.

This means that secondary schools will receive £4,000 per pupil next year and primary schools will receive £4,000 per pupil from 2021.

Gavin Williamson has only been education secretary since July

They have also promised to increase starting salaries and overall salaries for teachers and put in £100m towards the testing of a National Retraining Scheme for adults.

Their policies differ in Scotland and Wales where the issues are devolved, but in England they want to increase the Ofsted inspection of “outstanding schools”.

In 2017, the Conservatives promised to build 100 free schools a year and support teachers by giving forgiveness to student loan debts and continuing the bursaries for graduates.

Green Party on education

The Green Party have a left-wing stance on this issue that promises to focus on free education.

They’ve pledged to scrap university tuition fees as well as writing off all student debt.

They want to restore local authority control to education, banning Ofsted and making diversity and equality education mandatory.

Sex and relationship education is also promised to become mandatory and local adult education programmes will be restored.

In their 2017 manifesto, they pledged to increase funding to schools so real-term spending per pupil is protected.

They’re also in favour of academies, scrapping SATs all together and ensuring that every child with Special Educational Needs or Disability has access to a mainstream education, in accordance with the UN Convention for Persons with Disabilities.

Labour on education

Labour plan to create a National Education Service in England, providing all children and adults free education for life, which would see university tuition fees abolished and maintenance grants reintroduced.

They have proposed free school meals to all primary school children and having class sizes reduced to 30 for all five, six and seven-year-olds.

Instead of league tables, schools will remain colour-coded to indicate whether they need any support.

Students from Wales to continue to get grants to cover living costs, with loans to cover tuition fees.

In devolved Scotland, Labour plan to divert more funding for children with additional support and they’ve requested more funding for schools to ensure the Pupil Equity Fund – paid to headteachers to help disadvantaged children – is “truly additional”.

They propose to reform the student support system by implementing a minimum student income of about £9,500 a year.

Liberal Democrats on education

The Lib Dems plan to contribute an additional £10 billion annually to education, including the recruitment of 20,000 more teachers.

They also want to include free school meals for all primary school children and children whose families receive universal credit.

A Liberal Democrat government would also provide every adult in the UK with £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives.

This “Skills Wallet” would entitle every person to installments of £4,000 at age 25, and £3,000 at 40 and 55, giving people the opportunity to retrain and upskill.

Another one of their targets is to increase free childcare to 35 hours per week beginning at the age of nine months.

All three-year-olds currently get 15 hours and most working families up to 30 hours. Lower-income parents sometimes get extra help earlier.

The Liberal Democrats plan to fund both initiatives by reversing government cuts to corporate taxes and raising them to 20%.

What does this mean for south west London?

South west London has a diverse spread of public and private schools, and the state sector would of course benefit from any increase in funding.

However, doubts persist regarding whether the Tories’ funding increases would be enough to reverse an education system that has been financially bleeding.

A Labour government could, of course, be cataclysmic for south west London’s long-established fee-paying schools.

If Jeremy Corbyn were to make schools universally free, it is difficult to imagine them functioning in their previous manner.

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