Commenting on the Education Policy Institute analysis of the election manifestos of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Brexit parties, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The EPI assessment of party manifestos is useful and challenging.  It is right to highlight the inequitable nature of education in England and to scrutinise the ways in which the parties aim to address it. The judgement that ‘the measures set out in the Conservative manifesto are unlikely to have a significant impact on closing the disadvantage gap’ is shared by the Union.

“The focus on early years education is particularly welcome. Like the EPI, the union believes that the development of a larger educational workforce, with higher levels of training and qualification, is essential to a programme of Early Years reform.

“In other aspects the EPI’s analysis is over-cautious.

“The opposition parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens – have understood the depth of the crisis in our schools.  Our systems of inspection and accountability have created significant problems of wellbeing for staff and pupils alike. As the OECD has noted, we have a school system that is not aligned with the needs of our century. Teaching to the test has lowered the quality of education.

“Researchers and educators have made a powerful and detailed case for alternatives to the current system, and the accountability proposals in the parties’ manifestos reflect a widespread consensus. In placing its emphasis on the possible negative effects of change, the EPI’s analysis overlooks this work and the answers it provides to fears that a new accountability system will let down disadvantaged students.

“This week the School Cuts coalition published the definitive assessment of manifesto commitments on education funding. This empowers every voter to see precisely what will happen to their local schools in a year’s time, depending on the outcome on 12 December. Consistently, it shows a stark choice between investment or more of the same: more staff cuts, increased class sizes, buildings in long-term disrepair. A generation of children has lost out due to the effects of austerity.

“There is a clear choice at this election. Parents, alongside teachers, head teachers and support staff, know that if you value education then you must vote for education.”

Editor’s Note

School Cuts manifesto analysis, Do the party pledges cut it?, 4 December 2019.