We believe that education is the keystone that makes all other longer-term strategic policies possible: improving industry and employment; the arts; scientific discovery and research; improving the overall health and well-being of society; and reducing crime. It is the policy area that can justify significant investment in recognition of the dividend that all other areas of public spending will receive 10-15 years hence. We also recognise that education is about more than simply equipping the future workforce with relevant vocational and professional skills, but about creating a future society that is healthy, wise, and wealthy in all respects. We believe that learning is life long and should be encouraged in all aspects of life, personal and professional.
Our schools must be funded properly. We will halt any planned school funding cuts, and introduce a so-called triple lock for investment in state schools, where their annual funding must increase at least at whichever is greater of:
Funding for Sure Start children’s centres is to be restored, and any closed children’s centres are to be reopened.
Education should be freely available to all to first degree level or equivalent. Tuition fees for university students should be abolished, as university education is of general benefit to society, and should be covered by general taxation.
All primary school children will receive free school meals, removing the stigma around only poorer children receiving free meals, and helping to ensure all primary age children are receiving at least one nutritional meal each day.
Individual school uniforms for every school will be replaced with a single national uniform, provided by the local education authority to every pupil at no cost.
We will end academisation and the funding of free schools, and return all state-funded schools to Local Education Authority (LEA) ownership and control. No school will be permitted to be state-funded without being under the ownership and control of the LEA.
Academy sponsors will be compensated for any land or property used for educational purposes at market rates, except where that land or property was gifted, or sold at below market rates, to them by any tier of government or government agency.
50% of the British public identify as having no religion, and this number is growing1 but over half of all state funded schools have a religious character2, including over 4,500 Church of England schools. It has been demonstrated that faith schools are religiously selective, excluding those of other or no faith3.
Therefore, we will mandate that all state-funded schools be secular in nature.
No state funded school will be permitted to admit students based on religiosity.
We will end compulsory worship in schools.
State-funded faith schools will also lose their exemption to equalities legislation, preventing them from practising religious discrimination in their employment policies.
Religious education (R.E.) will be replaced by Philosophy and Comparative Religion, and content in other subjects that is based on religious beliefs which are divisive (such as homosexuality) or not scientifically valid (such as creationism) will not be allowed.
Scottish authorities will no longer be legally obligated to appoint unelected religious representatives to school boards. Instead, elected councillors will be appointed by a vote of the full council.
We will remove the charitable status from private schools, and make fees subject to VAT, as private schooling is most certainly a luxury.
Under current law, schools are allowed to discriminate between genders and/or sexes via segregation; we consider this unjustified and discriminatory, and would end this practice. As an optional alternative for schools that insist on segregation, we would propose sporting brackets based on age, and/or height, and/or weight and/or proven strength (for example: this could be proven in rugby by picking exercises that affect major muscle groups and counting repetitions of the exercises to form an overall rank). This would be a purely pragmatic option for schools, as these elements play a very real part in things such as contact sports.
Over time, a list will be developed of sports and activities that are allowed and practiced under the name of Physical Education which makes note of which do and don’t require the pragmatic exemption, and amendments and bills will be pushed accordingly to adjust the legislation towards the list.
All state secondary schools will have an elected students council, and student president. The student president, who will need to be at key stage 4, will represent students on the board of governors.
Any and all anti-student-union regulations will be repealed. The formation of student unions from secondary school upwards will be subsequently encouraged and participants will be immune from any and all educational establishment sanctions unless another offence has been committed against the educational establishment rules and/or policy; other than the temporary truancy of strike action or the disrespect to staff created passively through civil disobedience.
A caveat to this immunity is that said offence must have physically harmed another in a malicious or reckless manner, or physically damaged the educational establishment’s building(s), or taken action otherwise illegal in areas other than educational establishments, under the relevant case law and legislation, with the burden of proof resting on the school and/or alleged victim in non-legal or regulatory proceedings, and the burden of proof applying as per other legislation in legal proceedings.
An exception and legal defence for the student in this matter will be if a member of the educational establishment acts in such a way that inhibits or prohibits the strike action or civil disobedience intentionally. Though requests to cease such inhibition and/or prohibition must be taken immediately and the member must be given reasonable time, taking disability, physiology, and age, into account, to cease such activity, before any action is taken which will be or is being or has been justified by this exception and legal defence. In the case of requiring this exception, similar laws regarding proportionate force in self defence law will apply in this case (For example: If a member of staff is standing a doorway which a strike group is attempting to move through, and the member is able to at the time and did at the time comprehend this, and does not, after requests, cease to obstruct their path, force may only be taken proportionate to the amount required to move them from that position to a position that does not obstruct the doorway, and the staff member has every right to appeal the proportionate nature of this force in a court of law).
Student unions will not need staff or board of governors approval to form, function, or disband.
Allowing individuals to be able to gain skills and knowledge, and validate them at a reasonable cost is an important part of our plans for life long education. This will allow for workers to develop skills later in life, and give a boost in the general skill level of the work force, while also allowing people to move into new and emerging industries, while leaving areas of employment with a less stable future.
Life long learning also allows for a better informed public, social interaction between communities, and studies suggest that it can also reduce the risk of dementia.
Funding to the Open University, and other distance learning courses will be increased to allow for greater uptake and a wider range of courses. Funding will also be targeted not only at degree level qualifications, but also at a cheaper level of continual improvement qualifications.
We will remove the guidelines4 that force teachers to act as counter-terrorism officers and that stifle free speech within the learning environment.
We will include fiscal education into the national curriculum. This will include personal finances, understanding and paying taxes, understanding loans and debt, and relating fiscal choices to the state of the greater economy.
“British Social Attitudes 28: Religion”, NatCen, 2012: http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/latest-report/british-social-attitudes-28/religion.aspx ↩
“Maintained Faith Schools”, Department for Education, July 20, 2010: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maintained-faith-schools/maintained-faith-schools ↩
“Groundbreaking new research maps the segregating impact of faith school admissions”, Fair Admissions Campaign, December 3, 2013: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/groundbreaking-new-research-maps-the-segregating-impact-of-faith-school-admissions/ ↩
“Teachers forced to act as ‘front-line storm troopers’ to spy on pupils under guidelines aimed at combating terrorism”, The Independent, April 6, 2015: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/teachers-forced-to-act-as-frontline-storm-troopers-to-spy-on-pupils-under-guidelines-aimed-at-combating-terrorism-10158043.html ↩