Is the grass always greener?
Last week, our editor Amy looked at the Conservatives’ education manifesto for the May 2015 elections. This week, Mia will be focussing on the Green Party.
Please note that this blog 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
The Green Party of England and Wales is the largest environmentally-focussed party in the UK and has its origins in the PEOPLE Party founded in 1972. It has been viewed as a ‘single issue’ environmentalist party, but while it maintains its environmental policies, it takes a progressive approach to a wide-ranging set of issues, including animal rights, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) rights and drug policy reform.
In the 2010 General Election, Caroline Lucas became the first Green Party MP.
Even though the Green Party has not gained much popularity in the past, this year is proving to be very unpredictable. The Green Party has already taken up six percent or more in many polls, attracting support from young, socially-liberal and middle-class professionals posing a danger to not only the Liberal Democrats, but Labour as well.
So, what is the Green Party saying?
The Green Party are big fans of Finland’s current education system which boasts fully-subsidised meals for full-time students, and no tuition fees. The Green Party want to replicate this structure in the UK by abolishing Ofsted and approaching the system with an emphasis on welfare.
The three major changes the Green Party would make are:
- Scrapping university tuition fees, reversing cuts, and investing in further education
- Promoting a comprehensive system of local schools offering mixed ability teaching staffed by qualified teachers
- Bringing academies and free schools into the local authority (LA) system
The manifesto in detail
Early years education and childcare
The Green Party would only have qualified teachers leading early years education, and all other staff qualified to level 3 teaching status. A free but voluntary universal early education and childcare service from birth to seven-years-old would be offered, as well as children’s centres for children as young as one.
They would ensure parents receive increased Child Benefit and continue to receive statutory maternity/paternity pay, and also encourage parents to get involved in running the service.
Some of the most controversial topics the Greens would tackle are the abolition of SATS, league tables and Ofsted. They would also like to bring academies and free schools into the LA system, remove charitable status from private schools, and phase out public funding of schools run by religious organisations. The Green Party think it is important to teach about different religions, but not to encourage adherence to any particular belief.
In terms of teaching, the Green Party would strive to reduce class sizes to 20, promote a “comprehensive system” of local schools staffed by qualified teachers, reduce teacher workload and introduce professional pay levels.
The curriculum would see a shift towards establishing strong relationships with the local environment by getting children involved in the growing, preparing and cooking of food, where possible. In addition to this, they would like to offer free, nutritious lunches with local and GM-free ingredients. Sex and relationships education, as well as first aid, would be taught in PSHE lessons, and children from the age of six would focus on areas such as play, social cohesion and confidence-building exercises.
Equality is also a big topic for the Green Party. They want to make sure children with special educational needs are catered for, and are given the right to a mainstream education. To guard particularly vulnerable communities from sectarian attacks, the Greens would ensure all schools serve these people.
Parents would no longer have to buy extra equipment for school or contribute towards participation in expensive school trips. In addition, the Greens would want funding distributed among LAs, potentially allowing for more jobs to be created.
Further education and skills training
In terms of money, the Green Party would invest £1.5 billion extra every year, restore allowances for 16- and 17-year-olds, allow further education institutions to reclaim VAT, and encourage LAs to restore local adult education programmes. The Green Party would also reinstate the government’s duty to provide an apprenticeship to all qualified young people and increase funding for apprenticeships by 30 percent.
Additionally, the Green Party are vehemently against privatisation. They would oppose it in further education; instead returning further education colleges to the control of local government. They also plan to connect universities with local schools and colleges through nationwide Widening Participation programmes.
Lastly, they would prioritise training needed to ensure a low-carbon economy.
Whatever happens, we are sure it will be a very unpredictable time leading up the election. If you want to tweet your thoughts to us, please do! Use #GE2015 to get interesting information from others following the events.