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Election 2010: Party promises | Education

What Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are promising for education.


On pre-school provision:

Spending increased on frontline Sure Start and free childcare, schools and 16-19 learning.

An expansion of free nursery places for two year olds and 15 hours a week of flexible, free nursery education for three and four year olds.

On schools:

Every pupil leaving primary school secure in the basics, with a 3Rs guarantee of one-to-one and small-group tuition for every child falling behind; and in secondary school, every pupil with a personal tutor and a choice of good qualifications.

A choice of good schools in every area - and, where parents are not satisfied - the power to bring in new school leadership teams, through mergers and takeovers, with up to 1,000 secondary schools part of an accredited schools group by 2015.

On post-secondary provision:

Every young person guaranteed education or training until 18, with 75 per cent going on to higher education, or completing an advanced apprenticeship or technician level training, by the age of 30.

We will open up opportunity for people from families on low incomes to enter professions like the media and law, expanding paid internships for students.

We will guarantee mentoring and support for higher education applications to all low-income pupils with the potential for university study, with extra summer schools and help with UCAS applications; and expand programmes to encourage highly able students from low-income backgrounds to attend Russell Group universities.

In the coming years, priority in the expansion of student places will be given to Foundation Degrees and part-time study, and to science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees, as well as applied study in key economic growth sectors. The choices and views of students should play an important part in shaping courses and teaching. All universities will be required clearly to set out how they will ensure a high-quality learning experience for students.


On schools:

Restore discipline and order to the classroom . We will give teachers the tools and powers they need to keep order in the classroom. We will abolish the legal requirement of 24 hours' notice for detentions; reform the exclusion process; and give headteachers the power to ban, search for, and confiscate any items they think may cause violence or disruption.

Raise the status of the teaching profession. Move to a high quality system of teacher recruitment and training by raising entry requirements, expanding Teach First and incentivising top maths and science graduates.

Raise standards. We will take urgent action to reverse the decline in standards. We will reform the National Curriculum, remove political interference from GCSEs and A-levels, and allow state schools to do the same high quality exams as private schools. We will replace Key Stage 1 Sats with a simple reading test, reform Key Stage 2 Sats, and make Ofsted report on schools' setting policies and reading schemes.

Create a new generation of independently run state schools. We will make it much easier for educational charities, groups of parents and teachers, cooperatives and others to start new Academies (independent, non-selective state schools). We will move to a national per pupil funding system, so that new schools get paid if they attract pupils, with extra funding for the poorest pupils (a pupil premium).

On universities:

Provide 10,000 extra university places in 2010.

Introduce an early repayment bonus on student loans which are repaid ahead of schedule.

Work to improve the way that universities are funded so that students get a fair deal, disadvantaged young people don't miss out and researchers

Delay the implementation of the new funding system for universities - the Research Excellence Framework - and work with academics to ensure that there is a robust and acceptable way of measuring the impact of all research.

Provide people with much better information about the true costs and benefits of going to university and help people choose the course and institution which is right for them.

On apprenticeships and skills:

Create an extra 100,000 apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships each year.

Give small and medium businesses a £2,000 bonus for every new apprentice they hire, and make it much easier for firms to run apprenticeships.

Provide an extra 100,000 college places over two years so unemployed young people can improve their skills.

Provide 100,000 new 'work pairings' over two years so unemployed young people can get meaningful work experience and mentoring from businesspeople.

Offer much better careers advice, including providing expert advice in every secondary school and college and setting up a new careers service for adults.

Establish a Community Learning Fund to help adults who want to learn new skills or restart their careers.

Abolish many of the further education quangos which Labour have created, and cut bureaucracy and inspections in colleges so teaching staff can spend less time in the office and more time in the classroom.

Liberal Democrat

On schools:

Increase the funding of the most disadvantaged pupils, around one million children. We will invest £2.5 billion in this 'Pupil Premium' to boost education opportunities for every child. This is additional money going into the schools budget, and headteachers will be free to spend it in the best interests of children.

The extra money could be used to cut class sizes, attract the best teachers, offer extra one-to-one tuition and provide for after-school and holiday support. This will allow an average primary school to cut classes to 20 and an average secondary school to introduce catch-up classes for 160 pupils. Improve discipline by early intervention to tackle the poor basic education of those children who are otherwise most likely to misbehave and become demotivated.

Guarantee Special Educational Needs (SEN) diagnostic assessments for all 5-year-olds, improve SEN provision and improve SEN training for teachers.

Improve teacher training by increasing the size of the school-based Graduate Teacher Programme and support the expansion of Teach First to attract more top graduates into teaching. We will improve training for existing teachers over the course of their careers to keep them up to date with best practice. We will seek to ensure that science at Key Stage 4 and above is taught by appropriately qualified teachers.

Confront bullying, including homophobic bullying, and include bullying prevention in teacher training.

Set aside extra money for schools to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. They will pay back the loan over time from energy savings, creating a rolling fund to help insulate other public buildings.

On raising standards:

Establish a fully independent Educational Standards Authority (ESA) with real powers to stand up to ministers and restore confidence in standards. The ESA would oversee the examinations system, the systems of school inspection and accountability, and the detail of the curriculum. It would replace the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency and the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (OFQUAL), and include OFSTED, the schools inspectorate.

Replace the bureaucratic Early Years Foundation Stage with a slimmed-down framework which includes a range of educational approaches and enough flexibility for every young child.

Axe the rigid National Curriculum, and replace it with a slimmed down 'Minimum Curriculum Entitlement' to be delivered by every state-funded school.

Scale back Key Stage 2 tests at age 11, and use teacher assessment, with external checking, to improve the quality of marking.

Create a General Diploma to bring GCSEs, A-Levels and high quality vocational qualifications together, enabling pupils to mix vocational and academic learning.

On further skills and further education:

Give 14-19 year-olds the right to take up a course at college, rather than at school, if it suits them better. This will enable all children to choose to study, for example, separate sciences or modern languages at GCSE, or a vocational subject.

Seek to close the unfair funding gap between pupils in school sixth forms and Further Education colleges, as resources allow.

Scrap the Government's plan to criminalise those who leave education between ages 16 and 18.

Reform league tables to give parents more meaningful information which truly reflects the performance of a school. Schools should be working to get the best from all their pupils but government league tables are forcing them to focus on those who are just above or below the key C grade borderline.

As part of our immediate job creation package, fund 15,000 new places on Foundation Degree courses and fully fund the off-the-job costs of adult apprenticeships, which currently have to be met by employers, for one year.

Better target spending on adult skills. We will end Train to Gain funding for large companies, restricting the funds to the small and medium-sized firms that need the support. The money saved will be used to cover the course fees for adults taking a first Level 3 qualification (such as A-levels or an adult apprenticeship), allowing a significant reduction in the overall budget.

On reducing bureaucracy:

Introduce an Education Freedom Act banning politicians from getting involved in the day-to-day running of schools. Teachers are held back by constant government interference which distracts from teaching. We would cut the size of the central department of Children, Schools and Families, and focus its activities on a few strategic priorities. Local authorities will not run schools, but will have a central strategic role, including responsibility for oversight of school performance and fair admissions. They will be expected to intervene where school leadership or performance is weak.

Give all schools the freedom to innovate. We will ensure a level playing field for admissions and funding and replace Academies with our own model of 'Sponsor-Managed Schools'. These schools will be commissioned by and accountable to local authorities and not Whitehall, and would allow other appropriate providers, such as educational charities and parent groups, to be involved in delivering state-funded education.

Allow parents to continue to choose faith-based schools within the state-funded sector and allow the establishment of new faith schools. We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith when recruiting staff, except for those principally responsible for optional religious instruction.

Reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules to give schools and colleges more freedom, including in offering financial and other incentives to attract and retain excellent teachers, while ensuring that all staff receive the minimum national pay award.

Replace wasteful quangos (the Skills Funding Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England) with a single Council for Adult Skills and Higher Education.


On universities:

Scrap unfair university tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part-time, saving them over £10,000 each. We have a financially responsible plan to phase fees out over six years, so that the change is affordable even in these difficult economic times, and without cutting university income.

We will immediately scrap fees for final year students.

Reform current bursary schemes to create a National Bursary Scheme for students, so that each university gets a bursary budget suited to the needs of its students. These bursaries would be awarded both on the basis of studying strategic subjects (such as sciences and mathematics) and financial hardship.

Scrap the arbitrary target of 50 per cent of young people attending university, focussing effort instead on a balance of college education, vocational training and apprenticeships.

Start discussions with universities and schools about the design of a trial scheme whereby the best students from the lowest achieving schools are guaranteed a place in Higher Education.

Back to list.

Read the expert verdict from Demos' Sonia Sodha here.