Parent Power – A summary of what the Political Parties will do for schools (actual facts, not just made up stuff!)

After my last political blog I felt a bit sad.  I realised how disillusioned I had become with the political process.  That’s not me.  That’s not the girl who used to go to the polling station with her Dad and giggle when he shouted “SECRET BALLOT” at the man outside who asked him how he was voting!  Such happy memories.

With so many shouty political voices going on at the minute it’s hard to know who is saying what about what and when.  According the media the political parties each consist of 1 person, the leader, and they only speak for 60 seconds at a time.  They seem more keen to catch them out than to actually find out what they have to say.  I can’t vote based on this.  I need to some real facts about issues I care about and I’m sure you as parents do too.  To this end I’m going to put the facts together for you on issues that matter to you as parents.  Or I’m going to try.

CONSERVATIVES

There is NOTHING on their website about their proposal for schools and I couldn’t find anything on Facebook either, potentially because this plan was announced last year but still, it’s an election – COME ON!!!

I’ve gone onto the government website instead.

The government ran a consultation in 2016 on these 4 main points.

  • expecting independent schools to support existing or open new state schools, or offer funded places to children whose families can’t afford to pay fees
  • asking universities to commit to sponsoring or setting up new schools in exchange for the ability to charge higher fees
  • allowing selective schools to expand, or new ones to open, while making sure they support non-selective schools
  • allowing new faith free schools to select up to 100% of pupils based on their faith, and introducing new requirements to make sure that faith schools include pupils from different backgrounds

Essentially these points are all about creating more of the good school places that parents compete for.

 

The consultation results are due to be published in Spring 2017.  I doubt we’re seeing them until after the election.

In this years budget statement I found that an additional £50 million per year is being put into Grammar Schools by the government (as of 2016) which doesn’t seem much given that the overall education budget is£102 billion and£27 billion is estimated to be currently spent on secondary education.  They have also budgeted for kids who qualify for free school meals to receive free transport to selective schools (£5 million pounds a year).  Currently 1 million children are in schools that are considered below standard.

I have been unable to find anything regarding how the non-selective schools will be managed because it hasn’t yet been laid out.  I can also find no ‘injection of cash’ to raise standards’ for the kids who won’t qualify for grammar schools and will be left in the schools considered below standard.  There will be more technical college places created and the government will fund loans so that students can use them.

Schools have had their budgets cut repeatedly over the past few years – I can find nothing to tell me how this is going to be addressed or indeed how this has come about because the central top line numbers see a slight increase each year.  To see this properly I’d need to see a school’s budget or even the local council figures (which are in an appendices that isn’t published online tut tut Kingston Council).  I don’t doubt that the cuts are real given that friends of mine are now giving monthly contributions to schools –  I just can’t find the evidence and this blog is about facts!  Perhaps the centrally funded free schools and academies are seeing their budgets increased whilst the locally funded state schools are having their budgets cut.  Perhaps that I can’t find the evidence is a fact in itself.

The only real downward trend in numbers from central funding that I’ve seen is in higher education.

Tertiary Education spend

All in all, not much info at all other than headlines.  If you want more you not only have to dig deep, you have to mine!

 

LABOUR PARTY

The Labour Party have written a Manifesto!  They are the only party to do so.  It doesn’t look like the other parties are going to e publishing a manifesto before we go to the polls.

You can read the whole thing (which was leaked early) by clicking here, but here are the highlights.

Basically Labour want to create a National Education Service which will be available to everybody for their entire life.  With the world of tech being ever more present in our lives the cutting edge stuff we learn at school is old hat by the time we get a job so continuous training and updating our skillsets are seen to be more of a priority for future generations.  The National Education Service will ensure that the workforce has full access to the necessary training to stay up to date.

In addition there are plans in the manifesto to send school teachers on sabaticals into industry so that they more fully appreciate what they are preparing the kids for.  After all, school should be about training the workforce of the future.  All too often it’s about passing exams.

SATs are gone!

They will rebuild the early years infrastructure that they had in place when last in power such as the Children’s Centres but in addition put in place childcare support for parents, particularly women, so that it’s possible to have both a baby and a job without having to sell a kidney to pay for the childcare!  Regular readers of this blog will know that the quality of Early Years education makes a huge difference to a child and and there is a wealth of evidence which demonstrates a ‘good’ early years experience leads to better GCSE results.  They make the point that their looking to take an evidence based approach.

Labour would:

1. Overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct government subsidy.

2. Maintain current commitments on free hours and make significant capital investment during our first two years of government, to ensure that the places exist to meet demand.

3. Phase in subsidised provision on top of free hour entitlements, to ensure that everyone has access to affordable childcare no matter their working pattern.

4. Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities. This will benefit staff, who are among our worst-paid workers, and improve child-development.

5. Extend the 30 free hours to all 2 year olds and move towards making some childcare available for 1 year olds.

They are planning to invest massively and immediately in all schools by creating a tax for £80K + earners, scrapping the apprenticeship levy, telling private schools they can no longer be VAT exempt (oo er!) and other plans.  They’ll invest basically.  They have made a point that they will invest in particular in staff, SEND and improving children’s mental health.

Last year saw the steepest fall in university applications for thirty years.  Labour will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and we will abolish university tuition fees.

University tuition is free in many northern European countries, and under a Labour government it will be free in Britain too.

There is too much to quote, but the gist is a fully funded, evidence based education system that can be accessed at any point in your life and that helps you to get a better job.  I would urge everybody to read this education section if nothing else (although I would always encourage people to look at the numbers too).

 

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Something nicely written on their website.  Well done Lib Dems.  Here it is.

Education is at the heart of what we stand for.

Education is at the heart of what Liberal Democrats stand for. It is the key to freedom and opportunity, and a vital part of creating the fairer society our Party seeks to build.

We believe in a society where every young person, no matter what their background or circumstance, can grow up to achieve anything they set their mind to.

It is a tragedy that in 21st Century Britain, the wealth of a child’s parents and where they are born are still indicators of how well they will do at school.

We strongly oppose the Government’s plans to open divisive new grammar schools which will disproportionately benefit children from wealthier backgrounds.

We know that to ensure every child gets the support they need, our education system must be properly funded. We were proud to introduce the Pupil Premium – additional money to support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – when we were in Government. It is our policy to protect school funding in real terms, from the early years right through to college.

Our vision for education is about more than just passing exams.

We should give children confidence, creativity and practical skills too. We are deeply concerned that children are increasingly missing out on subjects like art, music and sport.

We want to see a broad, balanced curriculum in our schools which includes financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, citizenship, and age-appropriate sex and relationship education.

Access to education and new opportunities should not end at 18. We introduced a record number of apprenticeships in the last Parliament, to support people to gain new skills or change career at any age and we want to see greater investment in adult skills training and further education colleges.

Fundamentally, we also know that we cannot deliver the best education for all, when our teaching workforce is demoralised and undervalued; so we are committed to working with education professionals to tackle the workload and recruitment challenges they face.

OK It’s all words, no numbers, but nice words.  I do like a well written piece of writing!

This feels like a “if we’re in a coalition this is how we’re going to influence the other party” kind of statement.  They’re learning.  They haven’t committed to too much here so they won’t get destroyed in the next election if they don’t deliver those promises.

 

No clear statement on university fees which is a shame.  They let down a lot of their supporters on that one.  It would be good to see some commitment there.

 

THE GREEN PARTY

Yes – they do more than the environment.  Who knew!

Straight from their website

We want young people to be asked, not told, listened to, not ignored, to be allowed to speak, not be silenced.

We will scrap the tuition fees that put so many off studying for a degree. We will reinstate the Education Maintenance Grant to ensure that those from the poorest backgrounds are not blocked from attending university. And we will make sure that Brexit does not have a disastrous impact on young people’s education by creating a UK equivalent of the EU Higher Education Funding which looks set to be scrapped.

Good news for University students then.  I can’t find anything on primary or secondary schools.

UKIP

In the interests of fairness (and curiosity!) let’s have a look!  Lifted straight from their Local Election Manifesto of 2017…

Improve access to quality local education and create more grammar schools and technical skills colleges, encourage vocational education courses and apprenticeships, give parents the right to choose where their children go to school, protect rural schools and support home schooling.

They plan to fund this (and other changes such as funding the NHS) by cutting Foreign Aid by 10 billion pounds.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Education is a hard one because often what is best for your child isn’t best for the nation’s children!  Do you go with the selfish option, which every fibre of your being will tell you to do and vote with what’s right for you and yours, or do you go for the bigger picture and vote for a system where everyone, even the kids with crap parents, get a fair crack at the whip.

And that’s the crux of it.  There’s the choice.  In theory.  It’s only really an issue for those who could benefit from the types of schools the conservatives are planning to offer more of.  I myself am one of those parents.  My eldest child is incredibly clever.  She could go to grammar school.  A free education as good as any private education.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Does she deserve to be there?  Yes – she does.  In a world where no child was tutored or cajoled incessantly by their parents my child would walk straight in.  But we don’t live in that world and kids who have parents with ambition will find themselves being tutored from the age of 8 in order to secure that illustrious place in the local grammar.  I know this because I live next to Tiffins Grammar School, the top Grammar in the country and I see all too often the ads for the side business that has sprung up around getting your child into that school.  For those parents who realise too late that the test is fallible, their children stand at a disadvantage.  These are the very children that Theresa May (not Justine Greening weirdly – where is she during this election campaign?) claim will benefit.

How?  That question remains unanswered.  Not just to the masses but also to the Commons Select Committee.

At this moment in time there is no tutor proof test.  It doesn’t exist.

And only £50 million allocated to the project, with an extra £5 million for transport?  That won’t create the 1 million places needed to get kids out of failing schools.

I can’t help but feel that this is either a ‘rouse’ to lure back the UKIP faithful and the consultation will tell us that actually people don’t want grammar schools, after the election of course.

Otherwise it’s a token gesture.  The real goal for the conservatives is to continue their program of academising all schools which means that they will be run by private companies on behalf of the state.  They are also about creating 500 free schools, again run by private companies on behalf of the state.  If you look at the figures, that’s where the money is being spent.

The Labour plan is a good one on paper.  They have taken all of the evidence and feedback from both industry and teachers and put it together to create the perfect education system.  It will cost a fortune.  In theory, given time, the investment will pay off as the quality of people our schools churn our AND our workforce will have superior skillsets which will ultimately lead to a greater GDP, a richer country and of course they’ll be earning better wages which means they’ll pay more tax.  It is a worthy and lofty goal, but it will be one hell of a fight to get it.  The private companies delivering education are well entrenched.  In addition a new industry of tutoring has sprung forth, and I doubt either will want to go down without a fight.

Assuming that my assumptions on the Conservative Parties policies are correct then how you vote comes down to these simple questions.

  1.  Do you want private companies to run schools on behalf of the state?  The benefits include schools having the freedom to create their own curricula and attract staff with generous remuneration packages meaning you get the best staff.  The downsides are that they are less accountable to the state – the price of freedom is we lose control!  We have to trust them!
  2. Are you prepared to pay for, or take on debt, to send your child to university?
  3. Are you prepared to put in the work (and funds) necessary to secure a grammar school place to guarantee your child the best?
  4. If you don’t get a grammar school place, do you have a back up plan which may include paying for a private school or tuition?  This is assuming you want to go for a Grammar School place.

In olden days you would have had the option to pay less tax in exchange for options 1 & 2.  Now the money saved will go towards paying off the nations debts but long term I’m guessing they are hoping to reduce that debt and then lower taxes.  That’s usually the aim.

If the answer to these questions is yes then you should vote Conservative or UKIP.

If the answer to these questions is no then you should vote Labour, Lib Dem or Green.

But in addition you should ask the question is a National Education Service worth fighting for?  Because it would be a fight, but if you think the answer to this one is yes then perhaps you should consider voting Labour.

 

I have found this process enlightening, and also disheartening at the same time.  Mostly it’s made me angry.  Once again I feel like I’m being asked to make a decision on crazy shouty stuff and when I dig for evidence, numbers, facts and well constructed arguments I struggled to find them with the exception of the Labour party who have laid it ALL out. I allowed 2 hours to write this blog.  It’s taken over 10.

The clearest arguments are currently being posed by the Labour Party, whether I agree with them or not.  The Conservatives appear to be leaving it all to Theresa May – making it a popularity contest between her and Jeremy.  The Lib Dems have some great messages but need to put some numbers and some balls behind it and the Greens quite frankly need more air time.  What does anybody know about them?  We all assumed they were ex Greenpeace who got jobs.  Far from it.

I don’t mind people voting for the communists or the Nazi’s as long as they vote and they know why.  I want people to be engaged.  I think we need to take a good hard look at how that happens.  How we get people asking.  We are still a nation divided – there is the half who still believe things can change and the other half who have given up hope.
We can start those changes here.  If you enjoyed this blog, and maybe found it useful, then share it.  Send it to other parents.  Send it to your mum and dad.  Get the dog reading it.

And don’t just take my word for it.  Go out and seek information for yourself.  Verify this info.  Test my assumptions and make your own.  BUT DON’T JUDGE ANYONE ELSE IF THEY THINK DIFFERENTLY FROM YOU.  That’s not democracy – that’s dictatorship.  Let’s not go there.

I feel inspired!  Next week I’m going to dig into the NHS!

 

If you enjoyed this blog you may also enjoy

Dear Little Ones – Could Peppa Pig help fight Election Fatigue?

Imposter Syndrome

Mum with Migraine

Homework is Sexist

Dear Little Ones – Grammar Schools

You can also like us on Facebook by clicking HERE.  A blog is published every Monday morning.  If you like a tweet then you can find us on Twitter @storystorks

SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure.  She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right.  Infact 85% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS  are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.

www.storystorks.co.uk

 

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5 thoughts on “Parent Power – A summary of what the Political Parties will do for schools (actual facts, not just made up stuff!)

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