Education & Young People

 
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Put children first


Education is at the heart of the Liberal Democrat agenda. Every child deserves the best start in life. But Conservative school cuts mean that children’s chances are determined too often by their parents’ income.

Children’s education is too often distorted by schools’ need to focus on league tables. Teachers deserve to be treated as professionals and given the flexibility to apply their expertise and develop children’s passion for learning.

OUR PLAN FOR EDUCATION

Invest £7 billion extra in children’s education, so that no school loses money per pupil in cash terms.

Triple the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1000 - giving children from disadvantaged backgrounds the best start in life.

Oppose new grammar schools - giving local authorities proper control over admissions and new schools.

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Schools in England are facing an unprecedented funding crisis, with rising pupil numbers and an inadequate financial settlement means that real-terms per-pupil funding is being squeezed. At the same time the Conservatives’ flawed approach to the National Fair Funding Formula means some schools will lose out even more. Liberal Democrats believe every child deserves a high-quality education, wherever they live. We will:

  • Reverse all cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protecting per pupil funding in real terms.
  • Introduce a fairer National Funding System with a protection for all schools, so that no school loses money per pupil in cash terms.
  • Protect the Pupil Premium which targets extra help at disadvantaged children.

Over the Parliament, this means an extra £7 billion for school and college budgets

Investing in high quality early years education has a huge impact on children’s attainment as they enter school. Our most vulnerable children have the most to gain from excellent early years setting, with partnerships with parents a key component. We will:

  • Increase our Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000 per pupil per year.
  • Raise the quality of early years provision and aim for every formal early years setting to employ at least one person who holds an Early Years Teacher qualification by 2022.

Too many good teachers are leaving the profession – in many cases because of the excessive pressure they are under from heavy workloads and funding cuts. We want to empower teachers and make sure they feel valued for the essential work they do. We want to improve the status of the teaching profession, and support and nurture teachers in their work – helping to drive up standards in every school. We will:

  • End the 1% cap on teachers’ pay rises.
  • Guarantee that all teachers in state-funded schools will be fully qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from January 2019.
  • Introduce a clear and properly funded entitlement to genuinely high quality professional development for all teachers –25 hours per year by 2020, rising to the OECD average of 50 hours by 2025.
  • Support proper long-term planning of initial teacher training places, prioritising close partnerships with higher education and specialist routes such as Teach First in order to recruit the highest-quality teachers in shortage areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths.
  • Tackle unnecessary teacher workload, including by:
    - Establishing an independent Education Standards Authority to pilot, phase-in and resource future policy changes in consultation with professionals and experts.
    - Reform Ofsted inspections so that they include a focus on longer-term outcomes and sustainable improvement as well as teacher workload, sickness and retention.
    - Support the establishment of a new, independent Foundation for Leadership in Education, working under the umbrella of the Chartered College of Teaching, to promote high-quality, evidence-based leadership and help the best leaders into the most challenging schools.
  • Continue to work with the Education Endowment Foundation to establish a comprehensive evidence base on what works in teaching.

Far too many children are still failing to get the opportunities they need. We cannot fail our children – especially when we know it is the children who need the most help who are the most likely to be let down. The Conservatives’ obsession with more grammar schools is not the answer. Liberal Democrats want to give every child the chance of attending an excellent local school. We will:

  • Give democratically accountable local authorities clear responsibility for local school places planning and repeal the rule that all new state funded schools must be free schools or academies. We will encourage local head teachers with a strong record to play a key role in school improvement, working with schools and local authorities.
  • Scrap the planned expansion of grammar schools and devolve all capital monies for new school spaces to local authorities.
  • Allow Ofsted to inspect both local authorities and academy chains.
  • 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, instead of wasting money on over-supply.
  • Ensure that identification and support for special educational needs and disabilities takes place as early as possible. All new policies should have an assessment of how they impact pupils who have special educational needs, and ensure they adhere to duties under the Equality Act.

We want schools to have flexibility, but we also believe that parents and children need to know that the curriculum in every school will cover the essentials, and that teachers will be skilled educators who know how to inspire a love of learning.

Education should equip children with rich knowledge for life, nurturing creativity and problem-solving, and instilling a passion for life-long learning. Children should be helped to develop the life skills they will need as adults, and every pupil should be given advice and guidance about their future. We will:

  • Introduce a curriculum entitlement – a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education: a ‘curriculum for life’ including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship, and age-appropriate Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).
  • Include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content.
  • Make the curriculum the responsibility of an Educational Standards Authority to pilot, phase-in and resource future changes in consultation with professionals and experts while retaining legitimate democratic accountability.
  • Prioritise primary progress measures instead of floor thresholds and work with the profession to reform tests at 11, preventing curriculum narrowing in upper Key Stage 2.
  • Protect the availability of arts and creative subjects in the curriculum and act to remove barriers to pupils studying these subjects.
  • Improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment, and improve careers advice in schools and colleges.
  • Improve links between employers and schools, encouraging all schools to participate in employment and enterprise schemes that promote regular experiences in business. In particular, we will seek to inspire more children and young people to follow technical and scientific careers through partnership with relevant businesses.
  • Challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to promote positive body image and break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects

England’s young people are some of the most anxious and unhappy in the world. Schools are on the front line in dealing with children and young adults with mental health issues. We also know that children cannot learn properly if they are undernourished.

Parents are under huge pressure and receive little support even though home is the biggest influence on children’s learning. Liberal Democrats believe that parents need to be properly empowered and supported with the tools they need to raise the next generation, and involved in the running of their children’s schools. We will:

  • Ensure that all teaching staff have the training to identify mental health issues and that schools provide immediate access for pupil support and counselling.
  • Include promoting wellbeing as a statutory duty of a school, to be part of the Ofsted inspection framework.
  • Extend free school meals to all children in primary education and promote school breakfast clubs.
  • Establish a new online Family University, supported by leading organisations such as the BBC and Open University, to provide every family with advice and guidance for learning and parenting at home as well as inspiring trips out and local opportunities.
  • Ensure collaboration between leading education and family organisations to improve the flow of helpful information between home and school without increasing teacher workload.
  • Tackle bullying in schools, including bullying on the basis of gender, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression.

The ability of universities to attract funding to maintain top quality research activity and deliver the best teaching depends on being open and outward looking. The ability to attract and retain the best staff and students in our world class universities is vital. Brexit undermines these at every turn.

In government, Liberal Democrats established a fairer system such that that no undergraduate student in England had to pay a penny of their tuition fees up front or pay anything afterwards until they earn over £21,000 per year. This meant that only high-earning graduates would pay their tuition fees in full, and eliminated systematic discrimination against part-time students. We now have the highest university application rates ever, including from disadvantaged students. But the Conservatives are threatening to undermine opportunity by ending student bursaries, freezing the repayment threshold and raising the level of fees. We will:

  • Reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students, ensuring that living costs are not a barrier to disadvantaged young people studying at university.
  • Establish a review of higher education finance in the next Parliament to consider any necessary reforms, in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality, and make sure there are no more retrospective raising of rates, or selling-off of loans to private companies.
  • Ensure that all universities work to widen participation across the sector, prioritising their work with students in schools and colleges, and require every university to be transparent about selection criteria.
  • Reverse the damage to universities and academics by changing the country’s course away from a Hard Brexit.
  • Recognise the value of international staff to universities and promote international collaboration.
  • Fight to retain access to Horizon 2020 and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions funding.
  • Reinstate quality assurance for universities applying for degree-awarding powers.

We need to grow the country’s skills base, especially in the technologies and industries that are most important to Britain’s economic future. We want it to become the norm for businesses to take on and train up young people as apprentices in every sector of our economy, and for higher level apprenticeships to be understood as a respected alternative to university education.

As our economy rapidly changes, the need for people to retrain and reskill has never been more important. It is no longer the case that the skills learnt at 18 or 21 will last throughout a career. The ability to learn new skills or change careers is also vital in creating the opportunity for people to succeed no matter their stage in life. That’s why Liberal Democrats support the need for lifelong learning. We will:

  • Aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices, including by extending apprenticeships to new sectors of our economy, like creative and digital industries.
  • Develop National Colleges as national centres of expertise for key sectors, such as renewable energy, to deliver the high-level vocational skills that businesses need.
  • Work with the Apprenticeship Advisory Group to increase the number of apprentices from BAME backgrounds, ensure gender balance across industry sectors, and encourage underrepresented groups to apply.
  • Identify and seek to solve skills gaps such as the lack of advanced technicians by expanding higher vocational training like foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships.
  • Ensure that all the receipts from the Apprenticeship Levy in England are spent on training, aiming to fund a wider range of types of training.
  • Aim to meet all basic skills needs including literacy, numeracy and digital skills by 2030.
  • Create individual accounts for funding mature adult and part-time learning and training, and provide for all adults individual access to all necessary career information, advice and guidance.
  • Facilitate across the UK an effective and comprehensive system for credit transfer and recognition of prior learning and qualifications.
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