Sat, 07 Mar 2009
The Liberal Democrat Spring Conference today backed plans to cut infant school class sizes to 15 and close the performance gap between children from rich and poor families
The plans include:
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Schools Secretary, David Laws said:
"After 12 years of Labour, there is still a yawning gap between state and private schools, and between the life chances of rich and poor pupils.
"Liberal Democrat policies aim to close these gaps to ensure that all children can rely on high quality state-funded education to enable all them to fulfil their potential.
"Our plans would slash class sizes in infant schools - where small class sizes matter most - and boost funding for the children who need it most.
"Our Pupil Premium would bring the funding of the most disadvantaged pupils up to private school levels."
TEXT OF THE MOTION AS PASSED
(This incorporates an amendment (amendment three, part one) which was passed to 4)d)ii))
Equity and Excellence (Schools Paper)
Conference is committed to providing every child with access to a first-class education, enabling every child to make the most of their natural talents.
Conference notes that the existing 5-19 education system is currently failing many young people, especially those from the most deprived backgrounds.
Conference believes the objectives of today's education policy should be to:
I. Close the gap in outcomes between advantaged and disadvantaged young people.
II. Close the gap in opportunity between the private sector and the state-funded sector.
III. Ensure that every pupil and student has local access to a first-class school or college.
Conference therefore endorses Policy Paper 89, Equity and Excellence: Policies for 5-19 Education in England's Schools and Colleges, as a statement of the party's key policies for creating an education system fit for the future. Conference particularly welcomes proposals to ensure:
1. A fair chance for every child, including:
a) Introducing a Pupil Premium to close the performance gap between children from rich and poor families - £2.5bn of additional investment will be used immediately to bring the funding of the poorest and most educationally disadvantaged 1 million children up to levels in private schools.
b) Within one Parliament, extending the Pupil Premium to other disadvantaged pupils, by reallocating money already in the education system, to cover around 2.5 million children in total.
c) Enabling schools to spend the Pupil Premium on cutting class sizes, boosting one-to-one tuition, financial incentives for teachers to work in the most challenging schools, extended school days or after-school tuition and holiday support.
d) Cutting class sizes for children aged 5-7 to private school levels - to around 15 children per class.
2. A broader curriculum and better teaching, including:
a) Scrapping the 600-page National Curriculum and replacing it with a slimmed down Minimum Curriculum Entitlement.
b) Radically slimming down the system of national testing, and reinvesting the savings in supporting early interventions to help improve pupils' literacy and numeracy.
c) Introducing a General Diploma, to be taken by all pupils, incorporating within it existing academic qualifications such as GCSEs, A-Levels, and existing proven vocational qualifications.
d) Ensuring there are incentives to meet the needs of all pupils by replacing the Government's present GCSE target which places too much emphasis on C/D borderline pupils.
e) Requiring the General Teaching Council to develop a formal programme of continuous professional development (including a requirement for a Master's qualification) as part of a new system requiring teachers to regularly re-certify their fitness to practice, as in other professions.
f ) Reforming teacher training by increasing learning overseen by established teachers in the classroom.
g) Reforming the existing rigid and bureaucratic National Pay and Conditions rules, to give schools and colleges more freedom, including in offering financial and other incentives to attract teachers - particularly in shortage subjects and in schools with the most challenging catchments, while ensuring all staff receive the minimum national pay award.
h) Ensuring that religious education is inclusive in all schools and teaches about what people believe rather than what to believe, while leaving faith schools free to offer their pupils religious instruction in the school's own faith, subject to pupils being able to opt out where they have attained the maturity to make that decision for themselves and subject to parental decision until that point.
3. More good schools and colleges, including:
a) Reviewing the existing funding formula for schools and introducing a Fair Funding settlement for all institutions, bringing funding in all schools up to the level of Specialist Schools.
b) Closing the unfair funding gap between pupils in school sixth forms and colleges, by immediately raising college funding to school levels, paid for by abolishing the bonuses awarded as part of the Education Maintenance Allowance.
c) Taking action to ensure that every neighbourhood is served by a good local school or college by giving Local Authorities a clear strategic responsibility for oversight of school performance, along with appropriate powers of intervention.
d) Ensuring that all pupils leaving primary and secondary education have the skills they need.
e) Extending the freedom to innovate to all schools, while ensuring a level playing field on admissions and funding through a new model of Sponsor Managed Schools, which would replace Academies, and which would end Labour's unfair two-tier system and restore strategic Local Authority oversight and commissioning.
f ) Strengthening school governing bodies, with incentives for employers to release staff, additional governor training and remuneration for Chairs of Governors on the same basis as for NHS Trust Board members.
4. Freedom for schools, pupils and parents, including:
a) Passing an Education Freedom Act, to devolve power from central government to schools, colleges, local authorities and parents - the central Department of Children, Schools and Families would lose powers to micro-manage education and be more than halved in size.
b) Establishing an independent Educational Standards Authority (ESA) to restore confidence in standards.
c) Allowing parents and pupils to choose schools, and not schools to choose pupils, by stopping the establishment of new schools which select by ability, aptitude or faith, and by introducing policies radically to reduce all existing forms of selection.
d) On faith schools:
i) Allowing parents to continue to choose faith-based schools within the state-funded sector, and allow the establishment of additional faith schools.
ii) Requiring all existing state-funded faith schools to come forward within five years with plans to demonstrate the inclusiveness of their intakes, with local authorities empowered to oversee and approve the delivery of these plans, and to withdraw state-funded status where inclusiveness cannot be demonstrated.
iii) Ending the opt-out from employment and equalities legislation for staff in faith schools, except those responsible for religious instruction.
iv) Requiring schools who choose to hold assemblies to ensure that any act of collective worship is optional for pupils who are old enough to decide for themselves and otherwise for parents.
e) Requiring local authorities to run a truly independent career and course advisory service for young people.
f ) Introducing a new pupil right to move from school to college or work-related learning provider at age 14.
g) Scrapping the Labour Government's plan to criminalise young people who leave education before age 18, and replacing it with a more flexible entitlement for young people to take the additional two years of post-16 education when they wish to do so.
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