Education is set to be a key battleground in the following election: policies from Labour, Conservatives, UKIP, Liberal Democrats, SNP and the Green Party include £6,000 tuition fees, 500 new free schools, abolishing SATS, smaller class sizes and setting new demanding targets for students.
So what do the political parties say? Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband MP, promises if they win the elections he will banish many of the education reforms brought in by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove. The party have vowed to create new independent directors of school standards. This will allow schools to set their own times for the school day and week.
Labour’s close rivals, the Conservatives, say at least 500 extra free schools will be built if they win the election. Free schools are set up by parents, teachers or third parties outside council control. A new report by Policy Exchange found struggling schools were improving up to twice as fast when a free school opened close by compared to the national average.
The Green Party have released some very different and controversial ideas these include- the compulsory starting age for school changed to seven, opposing performance related pay for teachers, removing funding for faith schools and reducing class sizes to 20. As well as eradicating Ofsted they will replace it with a ‘collaborative system of monitoring school performance’ which will allow headteachers to be independent whilst authorities will work together to maintain high standards.
Education is a key theme this year for The Liberal Democrats. “The priority I want to focus on is education – because nothing is more central to creating both a stronger economy and a fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential,” Nick Clegg said in February. Some of their achievements in Government have included- giving 15 hours free early education to all three-to-four year-olds and 40 per cent of two-year-olds, free school meals to all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 and setting up a £2.5 billion Pupil Premium, which puts more money in schools, aimed at pupils who need one-to-one help.
UKIP are showing a keen interest in education this year. Their education policies include introducing an option for students to take an Apprenticeship Qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs which can be continued at A-Level. They will also remove tuition fees for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering and maths on the condition that they live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after the completion of their degrees.
All the parties seem very certain on their new policies. Education appears to be the central point for winning the elections this year. And as Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.