Federal Policy Committee
Mover: Layla Moran MP (Spokesperson on Education).
Summation: Cllr Lucy Nethsingha (Chair of the Policy Working Group).
Conference believes that:
- Education is core to our Liberal Democrat Values.
- It opens the mind, fosters understanding and tolerance, and empowers our children and our communities to be the best they can be.
- Every child deserves a great start in life so they are equipped to shape their own future, and are determined to make sure that the education system finds and unleashes the best in everyone.
- Education helps break down the unfair divisions in our society, it ensure a productive, competitive economy and it overcomes intolerance.
- Despite the excellent work of schools, parents and children, persistent levels of educational inequality mean far too many children leave school without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
- Restrictive school uniform policies followed by many schools reinforce negative gender stereotypes, with girls often forced to wear restrictive and objectifying uniforms. This is detrimental for pupils of all genders and severely detrimental and exclusionary for non-binary and transgender pupils.
Conference regrets that:
- The Conservative government's spending plans continue to underfund education.
- Excessive bureaucratic demands and constant changes in policy place an unnecessary workload on teachers.
- Pressure to pass exams restricts schools' ability to focus on developing a wider education: on the arts, creativity and skills for work and life.
Conference endorses policy paper 128, Every Child Empowered: education for a changing world, as a statement of Liberal Democrat policy to meet these challenges. Conference particularly calls for:
- An end to Conservative cuts to education including:
- A commitment to at least protect per-pupil spending in real terms, including in Further Education.
- Protection of the pupil premium.
- Support for early years education including:
- Increasing the early years pupil premium from ś300 per year to ś1000.
- Ensuring all early years settings have a training programme for staff, with the majority of staff who are working with children to either have a relevant qualification or be working towards one; each setting should be Graduate-led.
- Boosting the readiness of children to learn and supporting household budgets by extending free school meals to all primary-age children.
- Action to improve the quality of teaching and boost the morale of teachers by:
- Supporting the Chartered College of Teaching.
- Requiring all teachers in state schools to be Qualified Teachers (or be working towards Qualified Teacher Status).
- Providing 50 hours per year of high quality Continuing Professional Development.
- Delivering a more coherent and accountable structure for state schools in England by:
- Making places planning, exclusions, admissions including in-year admissions, and SEND functions the responsibility of Local Authorities.
- Abolishing Regional Schools Commissioners.
- Giving a level playing field between Local Authority Schools and Multi-Academy Trusts, ending the assumption that if a new school is needed it cannot be a Community School.
- Introducing a new 'duty of candour' on all schools, including academies, free schools and Multi-Academy Trusts, similar to that which applies to suppliers of services in the NHS.
- Modernising the curriculum by:
- Requiring all state schools including academy and free schools to teach a broad and balanced curriculum.
- Including a 'curriculum for life' (eg. RSE, Citizenship, First Aid, Financial Literacy) and ensuring every child has access to high quality, independent careers advice.
- Scrapping mandatory SAT tests at KS2 and replacing them with a combination of a moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and a lighter touch standardised test to ensure consistency.
- Maintaining high standards while reducing unnecessary distortions in the system arising from the current accountability framework by:
- Replacing the existing Ofsted with a reformed independent inspection system which should focus on judging whether school leaders are capable of leading improvement and an assessment of the long term success of the whole school, looking at pupil and teacher well-being as well as results.
- Replacing existing government performance tables ('league tables') of schools with a broader set of indicators including more qualitative data about pupil wellbeing.
- Scrapping existing mandatory SATs tests at both KS1 and KS2, and replacing the them with a moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and some lighter-touch testing.
- Have decisions to intervene in schools or change their governance arrangements normally be made by the Local Authority or MAT, ending the presumption that a temporary dip in results will trigger academisation or re-brokering of schools already functioning as academies.
- Improving the way the system treats pupils with Special Education Needs and Disabilities by:
- Screening for children to identify trauma and neglect in early years, and proactively provide early and evidence-based interventions to stop the trauma becoming entrenched.
- Supporting measures to reduce the number of children with special educational needs who are excluded from school - these children are six times more likely to be excluded than children with no SEN.
- Emphasising SEND provision in inspections.
- Giving greater support to the mental health of pupils by:
- Developing a mental health care pathway beginning in schools that links with local mental health services.
- Establishing a specific individual responsible for mental health in schools, who would provide a link to expertise and support for children experiencing problems and would also take a lead on developing whole school approaches to mental wellbeing.
Conference also calls for schools to be required to provide inclusive, non prescriptive, gender-neutral school uniform policies and for adequate training for school staff on how to review and improve their school uniform policies.