Deputy Prime Minister Farage anybody?
The general election is just four weeks away, how time flies… I’ve just about got to grips with the drama of the last one! In view of this, the editorial team at TheSchoolBus will be writing a series of blog pieces focused around the education policies of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
We’re kicking off the series this week with our first blog on UKIP.
Please note that this is a fictional account of what might happen should UKIP join a coalition next month; it does not represent the political views of either HCSS Hub or any members of TheSchoolBus editorial team, including the author of this particular piece, and should not be taken as such.
A little history
Since the mid-eighteenth century, with the accession to power of William Pitt the Younger, the UK has largely been dominated by two political parties; whether this was the Tories and the Whigs, the Conservatives and the Liberals or the Conservatives and Labour.
There was, of course, the occasional general election when this did not occur; namely the hung parliaments of 1910, 1929 and 1974. However, the former two coincided with the rise of the Labour Party, and the latter lasted less than 10 months.
The current situation
And then 6 May 2010 happened.
Following this election, when David Cameron (Conservative) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) stood side-by-side in front of the cameras and announced to the nation and to the world the formation of a coalition government, many political commentators declared it to be a turning point in British political history; the end of two-party politics.
Coinciding with the apparent emergence of a multi-party political system, there has been the rise of a number of so-called ‘fringe parties’, such as the Green Party and UKIP; the last one having elected their first two Members of Parliament (MPs) in the process.
According to the latest opinion polls, no single political party, including UKIP, is projected to secure an overall majority in next month’s general election; although there is still time for this to change. Consequently, with another hung parliament expected after 7 May 2015, UKIP may yet find itself not only a kingmaker, but also in a position of power at No. 10 Downing Street, should they end up in coalition with one of the major parties; namely Labour or the Conservatives.
While, in terms of seat numbers at least, they are likely to end up the junior member of any potential coalition government, UKIP may use their balance of seats in government to push through some of their policies as a condition of helping the senior partner do the same. It is for this reason that schools and academies across the country should take note of what UKIP are saying about education during this general election campaign.
So, what are UKIP saying?
UKIP’s education policies reflect their current strategy of channelling the increasing disaffection of traditional Labour and Conservative voters from their parties’ core roots and positioning themselves not only as the new champions of the British working classes, but also as the true inheritors of the conservative right.
Apprenticeships and the STEM subjects
Should they come to power, UKIP have voiced a desire to undertake a comprehensive review of our education system and qualifications, ensuring that it remains both current and relevant to an increasingly competitive national and global economy.
Over the last few years, the market has given the impression that ‘current and relevant’ means an increasing focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills; a trend which UKIP has tried to tap into, stating that they would enable students to take an apprenticeship qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs, which can be continued at A-Level. UKIP would also scrap tuition fees for disadvantaged UK students taking degrees in such subjects.
Apart from abolishing tuition fees, this policy largely ties into the current government’s educational reforms, and would probably go down favourably with any senior coalition partner.
Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Likely
Free schools and grammar schools
UKIP would likely channel these reforms through the existing educational system, including free schools; a policy in which it has pledged its support, provided that they uphold British values. However, UKIP will also advocate for the reintroduction of selective education, reversing the current policy of prohibiting the establishment of any new grammar schools.
The Conservative Party have already pledged to create 500 new free schools by 2020, and would likely see eye-to-eye with this particular UKIP policy, although Labour may yet review it should they emerge as the dominant party. The reintroduction of grammar schools is also likely to find many supporters within the Conservative Party and with some Labour MPs on the right of their party. However, it may face severe opposition among other MPs and in the House of Lords.
Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Possible
School standards have always been a hot topic in any election campaign and it is no surprise, especially considering recent and current issues such as the Trojan Horse affair, to see it on UKIP’s manifesto. Indeed, one of UKIP’s potential solutions to these issues is to give parents and governors the power to trigger Ofsted inspections following a petition to the DfE of at least 25 percent of either group.
Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have raised the prospect of an overhaul of Ofsted; with other parties, such as the Green Party, pledging to abolish the education standards agency altogether. Whether UKIP’s policy would form part of any comprehensive solution remains to be seen, but it may well find support among more progressive MPs. Either way, some kind of reform looks likely to go ahead in the next parliament, irrespective of who emerges as the dominant party.
Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Possible
Sex and relationship education
Finally, UKIP have pledged to repeal sex and relationship education for children under 11 years old; another olive branch to traditional conservatives on both sides of the political spectrum.
The state shouldn’t be teaching such things at an age where many kids just aren’t ready for it UKIP Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall.
However, such a policy is likely to be seen as a political ‘third rail’ among mainstream parties, and would face considerable opposition in both Houses of Parliament.
Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Unlikely
Whatever the result of the election, you can be rest assured that TheSchoolBus will be with you every step of the way, informing you of the details of any upcoming policies, including UKIP’s if necessary; ensuring that you remain compliant with the education policy of the day.