A gold-standard red party?
Please note, this article 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 its formation in 1900, the Labour Party has been in and out of government and opposition, and has laid claim to a number of achievements, including the establishment of the National Health Service, protection of equal opportunities, and the introduction and maintenance of the welfare state, which still make up part of society today.
Main pledges in the manifesto
The Labour Party argues that education is due for improvement. Through investing and reforming education, in an attempt to raise teaching standards, Labour wants to achieve the ‘best possible start’ for all children. Their key aims are to ‘give every child a good start’, raise school and college standards, increase opportunities for young people, such as in career paths, and ensure there are also options available for pupils pursuing vocational routes, rather than academic.
The main promises the Labour Party has made to the education sector in its manifesto are to:
- Protect the education budget for 0-19-year-olds, so it rises in line with inflation.
- Cut university tuition fees to £6,000 a year.
- Ensure all primary schools guarantee access to childcare from 8am to 6pm.
- Cap class sizes at 30 for 5, 6 and 7-year-olds.
The theory is that cutting tuition fees will alleviate the burden of debt hanging over students in the country, and in turn, increase the opportunities available to young people.
In order to fund the proposed reduction of class sizes, Labour would scrap the Free Schools programme, which was introduced by the Coalition Government following the 2010 general election and has created over 230,000 school places since its implementation.
While the Conservative Party has focussed on the Free Schools programme, the Labour Party’s approach would be to focus on the improvement of existing schools. The party has placed greater emphasis on school standards through the media.
A Labour government would make it compulsory for all teachers in state schools to be qualified, and to engage in high quality continued professional development in order to nurture their skills.
It would also introduce ‘Directors of School Standards’ into every local authority, who would monitor school performance and intervene in schools in need of improvement and support. Vocational education would form a more prominent part of school and college curriculum with the creation of a new Technical Baccalaureate for 16- to 19-year-olds − a combination of a level 3 qualification and a work placement.
The party plans to address the current shortage of headteachers by creating a school leadership institute, with the help of headteacher associations, which would accredit heads with a new ‘gold standard’ qualification.
As part of a strategy to improve the evaluation of school performance, and henceforth, raise schools standards, the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, has said that Labour would call for education watchdog Ofsted to recruit teachers and headteachers to undertake accredited peer-to-peer evaluations, and for Ofsted to take on a back seat role in ensuring fair assessment.
This is part of the “far-reaching reform” of Ofsted that the shadow education secretary has said a Labour government would carry out.
Another main talking point of Labour’s, in terms of education, has been careers advice and apprenticeships. It was a decision of the Coalition Government to scrap compulsory work experience for 14- to 16-year-olds, and Labour intend to reverse this.
With a larger focus on vocational, as well as academic career routes, the party has proposed to give face-to-face careers advice to pupils from the age of 11, including advice on high-quality apprenticeships and technical degrees as well as more traditional academic routes to university.
The Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, has also promised apprenticeships to every school leaver who achieves two A-levels or the equivalent by 2020. The stated theory behind this strategy is that better training and higher wages would boost productivity.
It is common for political rivals to criticise one another’s plans for carrying out their promises, and the Labour Party has received its fair share of criticism. With all of these ideas and promises only making up a part of the manifesto, a Labour government would have a lot of expectations to live up to, but so would their competitors.
Change seems to be a key theme running through their education manifesto, meaning that some of the work of the Coalition Government over the last four years will be largely reformed or scrapped. Whether this would prove effective or destructive could only be proved over time.
The general election has approached thick and fast, and there isn’t much longer to wait. If you would like to find out more about the other main parties’ education manifestos, please take a read of the other blogs in our election series.