A MANIFESTO FOR EDUCATION

A manifesto for education

If you value education, vote for education. Let’s give our children the education they deserve.

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1. Reverse cuts to schools, colleges and nurseries and increase education spending to five per cent of GDP.
School funding is in crisis. After 14 years of chronic Government cuts, 70 per cent of schools in England have less funding in real terms than in 2010. That’s 13,144 schools. Mainstream schools’ spending power has been cut by £3.2 billion.
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2. End child poverty, starting with the removal of the two-child benefit cap and guarantee a free, nutritious school lunch for every pupil.
The UK is one of the richest countries in the world, yet there are over four million children in poverty. That’s nine children for every class of 30 who can’t access the essentials.
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3. An engaging and inclusive curriculum, which embeds anti-racism and guarantees all pupils access to a broad range of subjects, including the arts and PE.
The curriculum in our schools and colleges has been narrowed by underfunding and constrained by Government performance targets in ‘core’ subjects. Teachers are finding it more and more challenging to engage young people in their learning.
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4. End Government tests in primary schools and overhaul 14-19 assessment to stop the exam factory culture. 
The assessment system in England is unnecessarily high stakes. This means it does not support learning or progression and is not preparing students for the future. 
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5. Provide appropriate special needs support quickly and without unnecessary bureaucracy. 
Schools do not have the resources to offer much support without going through the lengthy Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process. SENDCos are too often tied up with bureaucracy rather than coordinating support for their pupils.
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6. Recruit enough teachers and school staff to fill soaring vacancies, by making pay competitive again. 
Improving pay is essential to properly value educators for the crucial work they do and to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis in education.
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7. Abolish Ofsted and replace it with a collaborative and supportive system, focused on giving good advice and feedback to schools.
There is an undeniable consensus for change around Ofsted. Since the tragic death of Ruth Perry at the start of 2023, the problems surrounding the current inspection system, and Ofsted in particular, have been well-documented.
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8. Keep teachers, leaders and school staff in the profession by asking us how to tackle unmanageable workloads.
The Conservative Government has failed to recruit and retain sufficient teachers over many years, and students’ education is suffering. Unmanageable workloads for education staff are both a cause and a consequence of this.
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9. Increase non-teaching time for professional development, collaboration and planning, especially for early career teachers.
Teachers in England work longer hours than their counterparts in many countries and have less non-teaching time. Ten per cent of their weekly timetable is designated for planning, preparation, and assessment (PPA).
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10. Tighter regulation of social media companies to protect children from online harm and prioritise their welfare.
Children and young people should be confident digital citizens who can participate safely online but are increasingly exposed to many content that is harmful and detrimental to their wellbeing.

Our demands in full

School funding is in crisis. After 14 years of chronic Government cuts, 70 per cent of schools in England have less funding in real terms than in 2010. That’s 13,144 schools. Mainstream schools’ spending power has been cut by £3.2 billion

For millions of children, these cuts will lead to larger class sizes, reduced subject choice and less individual support. For teachers it means more real terms pay cuts, more unmanageable workloads and less time to teach each child. Whole communities are experiencing the damaging consequences: children, parents, teachers, and staff. Those consequences do not just last for the year – they persist over a lifetime. 

In 2010 the UK spent above five per cent of GDP on education, which is the average for OECD countries. Today it has fallen to just 3.9 per cent. We are calling for the next Government to invest £12.2bn next year to start reversing the impact of Government cuts. 

That means: 

  • For the schools block, £3.2bn is required to start reversing the impact of Government cuts. 
  • Many children with SEND are not receiving the support they need. £4.6bn is needed for high needs funding just to prevent the crisis from getting any worse. 
  • Children are regularly learning in buildings that are falling apart, with leaky roofs, mould, and undiscovered asbestos. Schools need £4.4bn this year to begin to repair buildings and bring facilities up to scratch. 
  • This crisis coincides with an urgent need to decarbonise the school estate and ensure climate resilience and energy efficiency. A long term plan is needed to ensure all our schools are safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable places to work and learn.

The UK is one of the richest countries in the world, yet there are over four million children in poverty. That’s nine children for every class of 30 who can’t access the essentials. This is limiting the potential of the next generation and having a devastating impact on education. Education staff are reporting increased poverty-related hunger and tiredness in lessons and supporting ever more pupils and families with the cost of living. 

Restrictive eligibility criteria mean one in three children living in poverty in England are considered “too well off” to access free school meals. Meanwhile, the two-child limit and benefit cap are pushing more families into poverty, and the most vulnerable families into even deeper poverty. Child poverty costs the economy £39 billion every year. Scrapping the two-child limit requires an investment of just £1.3bn. 

The next government needs to start turning the tide on poverty. We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Scrap the two-child limit, which will lift 250,000 children out of poverty and mean a further 850,000 will be in less deep poverty. 
  • Invest in free school meals for all children, starting with those in primary, which will boost education and health outcomes, as well as delivering huge returns for the economy. 

The curriculum in our schools and colleges has been narrowed by underfunding and constrained by Government performance targets in ‘core’ subjects. Teachers are finding it more and more challenging to engage young people in their learning. Not enough of the curriculum feels relevant to students, nor is it preparing students for a world changed due to climate change. With mounting concerns around attendance, curriculum reform could re-engage those students who are not in school, and fight rising student disaffection. 

Skills which experts say will be most important in the 2030s and beyond – such as communication and problem solving – are not only absent, but actively deprioritised. The number of pupils taking GCSEs in Arts subjects have almost halved since 2010. The curriculum is neither diverse nor representative and many students feel their experiences or culture aren’t appropriately reflected. It is also not inclusive enough and too many students find it inaccessible, uninspiring and disengaging, particularly those with SEND or from disadvantaged backgrounds.   

We are calling on the next government to:  

  • Review and modernise the curriculum, ensuring it is broad, diverse, inclusive and fit for the future. This must guarantee access to the arts for all, delivered by expert teachers, and give students more time for PE and outdoor learning. It must also include teaching about climate change, nature and green skills. 
  • Ensure a curriculum review looks at the amount of content mandated for each subject to respond to concerns from young people that they are racing through subjects without time to consolidate or enjoy learning. 
  • Ensure that reforms are enacted with input from teachers and adequate time, training and resources for effective implementation. 

The assessment system in England is unnecessarily high stakes. This means it does not support learning or progression and is not preparing students for the future. In most secondary subjects, formal written exams are the only way students are allowed to show what they know. 

Students aren’t given an opportunity to demonstrate the many skills and capabilities they have and those who may be better able to demonstrate their potential in other ways are deemed to be less capable than they really are. Students face an unnecessary cliff-edge to achieve what they need for their next steps on just a handful of days. Inevitably, this is contributing to worsening mental health and wellbeing for students. The system is unfair for students, school staff and employers and there is growing agreement amongst parents, students, teachers, academics and policy makers that qualifications for 14–19-year-olds must be modernised. 

In primary schools there is more testing now than ever, starting with 4 and 5-year-olds in their first few weeks of school. Tests are often designed to hold schools to account rather than support teaching and learning, and place intense pressure on children, families and school staff. Children should not be losing sleep in the name of holding schools accountable. 

We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Prioritise the education and wellbeing of primary aged children and put an end to high pressure government testing in primary schools, moving towards an assessment system that supports learning and gives meaningful information to school staff and parents.  
  • Modernise the 14-19 qualifications system, using overwhelming existing research and the expertise of parents, school staff and academics. 
  • Broaden assessment methods, moving away from reliance on any one method and allowing students to develop and demonstrate important skills relevant for the 21st century.  

More on assessments

Even Gillian Keegan admits that provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is in crisis. There is an urgent need for systematic reform. 

Schools do not have the resources to offer much support without going through the lengthy Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process. SENDCos are too often tied up with bureaucracy rather than coordinating support for their pupils. Schools are too often penalised for promoting inclusive practice, because Progress 8 and Attainment 8 are not appropriate metrics for children with high-level special needs. Schools SEND budgets have been slashed, and local authority finances have faced a similar fate. 

A lack of capacity means the system is increasingly dependent on finding special school places in the independent sector. Often independent special schools charge more than twice as much as state schools and last year local authorities spent £2 billion on this provision. 

Without urgent action, we risk failing a generation of students and their families. We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Provide mainstream schools protected funding to build a team of teachers and teaching assistants able to give support quickly. 
  • Ensure that the review of curriculum and assessment takes full account of children and young people with SEND and involves practising teachers around how to do this well. 
  • Provide protected funding for local authorities to build expert teams of educational psychologists, language, behaviour and other specialists, so that schools can refer pupils with more complex needs and receive additional support in a timely fashion. 
  • Allow local authorities to open new special schools to meet demand without having to rely on expensive private provision.
  • Introduce a price cap for places at independent special schools, freeing up money for pupils with special needs, instead of boosting operators’ profit. 

More on SEND

Improving pay is essential to properly value educators for the crucial work they do and to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis in education. Staff are leaving the profession in droves and there aren’t enough coming in to replace them. Teacher recruitment targets have been missed by huge margins in recent years, exacerbating already significant shortages across the education service. This crisis directly and negatively impacts the quality of education students receive, most adversely for the most disadvantaged pupils. 

Educator pay has been cut significantly in real terms, failing to keep pace with either prices or earnings in the wider economy.  Pay for staff in schools and colleges is simply no longer competitive. On top of sky-high workload, this inadequate pay has caused an exodus of experienced staff and missed recruitment targets across almost all subjects and left many feeling undervalued and demotivated. Unless the incoming government restores the pay lost in real terms against inflation and improves educator pay compared with other professions, staff shortages will only get more acute. The damage to the life chances of this generation of children will be irreparable. 

We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Commit to investing properly in those who deliver our vital education service by ensuring a long-term correction in educator pay. 
  • Set up an independent commission to investigate how unions and government can work together to resolve the recruitment and retention crisis. 

Our pay campaign

There is an undeniable consensus for change around Ofsted. Since the tragic death of Ruth Perry at the start of 2023, the problems surrounding the current inspection system, and Ofsted in particular, have been well-documented. Ruth Perry’s family, teachers, school leaders, and various commissions have all raised common issues with the current system. 

Ofsted and school inspections drive a culture of fear in the profession, not improvement. Leaders suffer stress and anxiety before, during and after inspections. Some inspections are not handled sensitively, causing extreme stress and anxiety for school staff, particularly leaders, which is often also felt by pupils. Much of this is because the system is built around reductive single-word judgements which can never capture the full extent of a school’s work. 

The high-stakes nature of our school accountability model forces school leaders to over-emphasise Ofsted-readiness for fear of being forced to academise or of losing their job. Many are also inspected according to a framework that has been designed for large secondary schools and is not fit for purpose for most primary schools’ ways of working. Ofsted inspectors do not always have a good understanding of the schools they inspect – most often in small primaries and special schools. 

We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Remove single-word judgements and introduce a collaborative and fair system that can accurately describe a school’s strengths and next steps. 
  • Remove Ofsted from regular school inspection and allow schools to work with an external improvement partner who understands the school and its context well. 
  • Separate safeguarding checks from school inspection and introduce annual audits, with special provision where serious concerns arise. 
  • Remove the link between two ‘Requires Improvement’ outcomes and forced academisation and offer schools constructive and relevant support to improve. 

Our Abolish Ofsted campaign

The Conservative Government has failed to recruit and retain sufficient teachers over many years, and students’ education is suffering. Unmanageable workloads for education staff are both a cause and a consequence of this. Teachers leave the profession because they work too long and too hard, and their wellbeing suffers. The Government’s own evidence shows more than nine in ten of those who are considering leaving cite workload as the main reason. High teacher workloads mean high support staff workloads and retention crises increase pressure on everyone, including students. 

Students' learning experiences, wellbeing, and personal development are suffering because teacher workloads have become unmanageable, and stress and pressure in the profession has become unreasonable and unbearable. Too many students are not taught all of their subjects by someone qualified in that subject. This has to change. In summer 2023 the Conservative Government promised to reduce workload by five hours within three years. A year later they had barely started. 

To address this we must bear down on the drivers of workload, including changing the impact of inspection and accountability, reviewing the size and demands of the curriculum and assessment, and properly resourcing wider public services to support pupils. 

We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Tackle long hours by placing a contractual limit on the additional hours that teachers can be expected to work – currently an open-ended expectation. 
  • Recommend a further reduction in data drops schools must perform. 
  • Increase the dedicated time that teachers have to plan their lessons – for every hour spent teaching they should have at least ten minutes to prepare the next lesson. 
  • Ensure ethical, regulated use of technology and AI that guarantees professional autonomy and control whilst reducing workload.

More on workload 

Teachers in England work longer hours than their counterparts in many countries and have less non-teaching time. Ten per cent of their weekly timetable is designated for planning, preparation, and assessment (PPA). Teachers do much more than deliver lessons. Marking work, discussing students’ needs, writing reports, contacting parents, and creating teaching resources are all important jobs - on top of the essential work of planning high-quality lessons, tailored to their students’ needs and responding to unexpected and urgent matters. When non-teaching time is unavailable, or squeezed, much of this work has to be done after school, or in the evening or at weekends. 

Non-teaching time is especially important for early career teachers (ECTs). They need to catch up with their mentors, observe a variety of teaching styles, and have opportunities to discuss, reflect and plan new approaches – all vital to their development. ECT mentors are reporting that they simply aren’t given the time to properly support early career teachers, who are themselves reporting job insecurity, increasing workloads, and poor and patchy training provision. No career should start like this, and these teachers deserve better. 

Across the sector, demands on teachers are growing, and they cannot be expected to continue to deliver for our young people without the support they deserve. 

We are calling on the next government to: 

  • End the recruitment and retention crisis by properly funding and fully staffing schools so they can ensure teachers’ non-contact time is never threatened. 
  • Commit to ensuring parity with staff in other countries where the professional status of teachers is respected, and where sufficient time is given for all the important demands of their work. 
  • As a minimum, ensure that the extra ten per cent non-contact allocation for ECTs is continued into year two and work to progressively increase this allocation, recognising ECTs as the future of the profession. 

More on planning, preparation and assessment time

The rapid growth of AI, social media and other technology, have given young people wider access to the online world than ever before. It is important that students benefit from amazing opportunities to learn, develop and connect, but are kept safe and protected online – including their data. Children and young people should be confident digital citizens who can participate safely online but are increasingly exposed to many content that is harmful and detrimental to their wellbeing. This includes both illegal content and content that may not be deemed as illegal but can be harmful. 

Beyond being able to recognise and report harmful behaviours, students need to be confident that when they report harmful online content, action will be taken. Thinking 'nothing will happen' too often acts as a deterrent to reporting and normalises toxic and illegal behaviours online. 

Social media algorithms currently encourage the sharing and resharing of controversial content, meaning extreme content is being actively promoted by the platforms themselves, leaving young people vulnerable. 

Tech companies must be held responsible for protecting children from harm with proper regulation. Children’s safety must be their concern, and data being gathered on children by companies should be proportionate and protected. 

We are calling on the next government to: 

  • Ensure mandatory content reporting procedures are obvious and easy for young people to access and demonstrate what will happen after a report is made. 
  • Ensure effective enforcement of the Online Safety Act so that tech companies meet their obligations to protect children from online harm, beyond simply enforcing age assurance technologies.  
  • Regulate large tech companies better, including requiring them to take quicker action on removing harmful content. 

More on social media

Manifesto cover graphic

How to use this manifesto

1. Share and discuss it with your fellow educators.

2. Share it with parents in your nursery, school or college community.

3. Share it with your Parliamentary candidates and ask for their support.

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