Sunday, 28 May 2017

General Election 2017: The Policies

With a general election on the horizon and the manifestos out, we thought we would outline all the policies of all the main political parties contesting that directly affect students and young people.

According to recent reports and the Labour manifesto, the key policies relating to young people are that, if elected, a Labour government would reduce the voting age such that 16 and 17 year olds can vote in all elections. For university students, they would scrap tuition fees and would reintroduce the maintenance grants that were scrapped under the previous Tory government.

Another key election pledge is to create a National Education Service for England, akin to the NHS, to "move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use". They say they will do this by scrapping Conservative plans for schools to pay an apprenticeship levy, extending schools-based counselling to all schools to improve children’s mental health, at a cost of £90 million per year, bringing funding for 16 to18-year-olds in line with Key Stage 4 baselines and restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 18-year-olds from lower and middle income backgrounds. They also pledged to maintain the apprenticeship levy, and moreover, would set a target to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022 as well as protecting the £440 million funding for apprenticeships for small and medium-sized employers who don’t pay the levy.

Labour have also said they won't fund any new free schools or grammar schools. They also said they will oppose any attempt to force schools to become academies. They have also said they are considering introducing teacher sabbaticals and placements with industry to encourage interaction between education and industry. Furthermore, Labour will require joined-up admissions policies across local schools to enable councils to fulfil their responsibilities on child places, to simplify the admissions process for parents and to ensure that no child slips through the net.

In terms of investment in education, Labour has said they will make sure schools are properly resourced by introducing a fairer funding formula and redressing the historical underfunding of certain schools. Labour have said they would invest in new school buildings, including the phased removal of asbestos from existing schools.

Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems have pledged that, if elected they would invest £7 billion in education, reverse all cuts to frontline school and college budgets, and protect per pupil funding in real terms. They say they will do this by introducing a 'fairer' National Funding System "so that no school loses money per pupil in cash terms", protecting the Pupil Premium and establishing an independent Education Standards Authority to pilot, phase-in and resource future policy changes in consultation with professionals and experts.

To help teachers, the Liberal Democrats have said they will end the 1% cap on teachers’ pay rises. To attempt to tackle unnecessary teacher workload they have said they will reform Ofsted inspections so that they take into account longer-term outcomes and sustainable improvement as well as teacher workload, sickness and retention. They will continue to work with the Education Endowment Foundation to establish a comprehensive evidence base on what works in teaching and they have said they will introduce a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include a ‘curriculum for life’ including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship, and age-appropriate Sex and Relationship Education. They have also pledged to guarantee that all teachers in state-funded schools will be fully qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from January 2019.

The Lib Dems oppose new grammar schools and plan to scrap the planned expansion of grammar schools and devolve all capital monies for new school spaces to local authorities. They will also give local authorities proper control over admissions and new schools, allow Ofsted to inspect both local authorities and academy chains and rule out state-funded profit-making schools, and ensure that new schools are built in areas where there is a need for new school places.

They also pledge to include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content. Equally, they say they will challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects

With regards to university, the Lib Dems have also said they would reinstate maintenance grants, as well as ensuring that all universities work to widen participation and require every university to be transparent about selection criteria. They have also said they will establish a review of higher education finance in the next Parliament to consider any necessary reforms, and make sure there are no more retrospective raising of rates, or selling-off of loans to private companies.

The Lib Dems have also said they would legalise the possession and sale of marijuana in the UK, they would restore housing benefit for 18-21 year olds trying to get on the housing ladder and that they would offer discounted bus passes, giving up to 66% off local tickets.

The Tories have pledged to put an extra £4bn into schools by 2022 if elected, that no school will have its budget cut as a result of the new funding formula and open a specialist maths school in every major city in England.

They have said they will put plans in place for at least 100 new free schools a year, as well as ending the ban on grammar schools, the conditions of which would include allowing pupils to join at other ages as well as eleven, and will ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools. To this end, they have said that if universities want to charge maximum tuition fees, they will be required to "become involved" in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools.

The Tories have said they will scrap free school lunches for infants in England, but offer free breakfasts across the primary years, and they expect every 11-year-old to know their times tables off by heart.

One major education policy put forwards is to introduce the ability for sixth form students to sit T-Levels, more vocational and technical qualifications, as well as A-Levels. Like the natural progression from academic A-Levels to university, "under the new technical route, young people will embark on one of 15 technical education routes, rather than the 15,000 currently on offer. It brings to an end the possibility of 16-18 students sitting a mixture of vocational and academic qualifications.The 15 technical routes are as follows: agriculture, environmental and animal care; business and administrative; catering and hospitality; childcare and education; construction; creative and design; digital; engineering and manufacturing; hair and beauty; health and science; legal, finance and accounting; protective services; sales, marketing and procurement; social care; transport and logistics." How these T-Levels will be different from the pre-established BTECs is unclear.

Like Labour, the Greens have also said they would fight to restore student grants, reintroduce the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-17 year olds and enable apprenticeships to all qualified young people aged 16-25. They say they want real term spending per pupil to increase, bring academies and free schools into the local authority system, abolish SATS and reduce class sizes. They will also push for the age of voting to be lowered to 16.

There figurehead policy - and possibly most contentious - is that they would scrap university tuition fees and scrap all student debt currently held by graduates (according to reports currently standing at £76.3bn).

The Greens have also pledged to address teacher workload, abolish Ofsted, and reform the curriculum. They hope to provide mandatory sex education that is LGBT-inclusive, promotes healthy relationships and positive body image. They want to ensure that every child with Special Educational Needs or Disability has access to a mainstream education, and that every young person under the age of 18 and in full-time education is entitled to free local public transport.

In their manifesto, UKIP's key pledges are to open a grammar school in every town, adapting the old 11+ system to add transfer examinations up to the age of sixteen, stop paying tuition fees for courses which do not lead at least two thirds of students into a graduate level job, or a job corresponding to their degree, within five years after graduation, fund all secondary schools according to a single formula and make First Aid training a statutory requirement so pupils obtain a 'Basic Life-Saving Diploma'.

They have also said they will stop offering EU nationals student loans when the country leaves the EU, end sex education in primary schools and will reverse the policy of closing special schools, as well as ensuring all other schools are accessible to disabled learners and that individual support is in place for each child.

With regards to careers, if elected UKIP would introduce 'practical' employability lessons into the syllabus, teaching interview skills, time management, making presentations, public speaking, networking, making a good first impression, and developing social skills. UKIP would also include practical information about entrepeneurialism and setting up businesses into the syllabus. UKIP would also like to introduce a scheme of 'Dual Vocational Training', in which students attend classes at a vocational school and receive on-the-job training at a company. 

According to the manifesto, UKIP has a long-term goal of abolishing tuition fees altogether, which they will seek to enact 'as soon as economic conditions allow'. They, like Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens, would restore maintenance grants. Futhermore, they pledge to abolish tuition fees for undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics students, provided they work in their discipline and pay tax in the UK for at least five years after they complete their degree and for medical students, provided they commit to working within the NHS for at least ten out of the fifteen years after they qualify.

Sources: The Labour Party website, the Liberal Democrat website, Conservative Party website, Green Party website, UK Independence Party website, BBC News website, i Newspaper website.

DISCLAIMER: The policies outlined in this article are by no means exhaustive, and anyone who is politically interested or is entitled to vote in the June election we implore read the full manifestos of the political parties before making any decision. This article is intended merely to outline to policies that we think matter to students.

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