We await the manifestos of the parties but we already know the three main planks of the current government’s education policy. Here’s our guide, plus the Schoolzone teachers’ manifesto:
More grammar schools: Most have already expanded, according to our survey in September and the proposal is (or was last time we heard) that any new grammar school would also have to open or sponsor a non-selective school too. Only 11% of grammars thought they would be able to do so. Across all teachers, 63% were against the policy. The main source of any new grammars will be from the conversion of smaller, less financially viable independent schools and via the free school system.
More free schools: Free schools are the preferred way of opening new schools nowadays – LAs in need of a new school in their area would generally prefer that central government paid for it via the free school route, though they can still open them outside the free school system. The election has delayed wave 13 of the free school program however. Meanwhile the government promised more funding for additional free schools in the spring budget, but as we pointed out, the funding promised is only enough for half as many as they claim and it’s staged so that the bulk of it is only available outside the lifespan of the current parliament (even before the election was announced). This week, the Public Accounts Committee suggested that the system is "increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money". Meanwhile the dire need for school places to deal with an increasing population is causing serious problems in many areas, with primary schools operating beyond capacity and with the problem about to hit secondaries.
National Funding Formula: Long awaited and much requested, the second stage of consultation on the new funding model has not been well received. Schools in rural areas do better from it, but nowhere near well enough to feel any real benefit, given the current very low levels of funding, nationally. On the other hand, urban schools, which have more problems with EAL and social deprivation are net losers. A consequence of this is that schools if Labour areas lose, while those in Tory areas gain. See our article on this issue. If you’d like to get a handle on the new NFF – read our guide.
These observations show that it’s difficult keep politics out of education: two of these planks are ideologically motivated and the other has (unintended?) political consequences, but it would be nice to think that the forthcoming manifestos actually put schools and the needs of children at the centre of education policy. In 2015, before the last general election, we asked teachers to choose which policies they supported, without any reference to which party they belonged to. We devised the Schoolzone Manifesto as a result.