Everyone should have access to high-quality education throughout their lives. We will provide everyone with a meaningful and useful education that teaches vital skills and fosters a lifelong sense of curiosity.
Education as a Public Right
We will make education freely available and publicly provided, from early-years support all the way to doctoral studies. This has already been done successfully in Denmark, Germany, and many other countries around the world.
We believe that the purpose of education is to help students become skilled workers, responsible citizens, and, most importantly, fulfilled human beings. To neglect any one of those functions is to betray our children and ourselves. We oppose the blinkered view, shared by the Westminster parties, that education is nothing but a job-training programme.
We will scrap tuition fees and cancel student debt. Student loans are in most cases never repaid and tuition fees serve as a barrier to less well-off students attending university. Student debt payments prevent adults from investing in their future, and so student debt must be scrapped.
We will increase funding for high-quality special education, so all pupils have the resources they need to learn. We will also make digital devices available to children who need them, including appropriately adapted devices for those children with special needs.
We will reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance, which provided a ladder out of poverty for young people who would otherwise have been unable to afford to stay in school.
We will increase funding for the arts and humanities in education. These are vital fields that are being underfunded due to a misguided emphasis on commercial value in education. Not only is this a narrow view of human worth, it ignores the fact that the creative industries are one of the largest parts of our economy.
We will hire and train more teachers, reduce class sizes, and reform the national curriculum to require less homework. Research has shown it is ineffective at helping children learn and places a higher burden on disadvantaged families. These reforms will include a requirement for schools to increase the number of free periods for teachers for any planning and marking at school in order to reduce how much work they have to take home.
Ban on Fee-Paying Schools
We believe that a level playing field in education is essential. As a first step, we will strip charitable status from fee-paying schools. Ultimately, we will ban fee-paying schools outright, and convert the existing private schools to comprehensives.
We will scrap Ofsted and restore its responsibilities to local authorities, who will be required to ensure the same standards are met. We will create a national oversight body to review local authorities and ensure they are fulfilling these responsibilities in a way that fits with the needs of their local communities (rather than reviewing schools directly). This will ensure that those visiting schools understand the areas that the schools serve, while maintaining the pursuit of high standards in education. Evaluation of schools by local authorities will be constructive, supportive, and non-punitive.
Discrimination in Schools
We will end the practice of “off-rolling” by not allowing schools to remove pupils from their records without parental consent, and restrict the use of school exclusion to only the most disruptive cases. Schools should not be allowed to artificially inflate their performance statistics by discarding children who are seen as ‘difficult’, and these measures disproportionately affect children from minority groups.
We will require schools to effectively tackle discrimination and bullying as part of their safeguarding standards. This will include a requirement to promptly handle any discrimination from staff. Every child has the right to an education free from fear, no matter who they are.
Relationships and Sex Education
We believe that everyone should have access to high-quality and inclusive Relationships and Sex Education. We will fully fund its provision in schools, reversing cuts made throughout years of austerity, and we will ensure that educational resources are available to adults and young people outside of the school system. Everyone should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to have healthy relationships based on respect, and sex education is proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
We will increase funding for vocational courses and graduate opportunities in the public sector, particularly in areas struggling to recruit and retain workers such as healthcare and education.
We will fund more access to lifelong learning, as no-one is the same person at forty that they were at eighteen. No one should be penalised for wanting to change careers, no matter their age. This funding will include support for education in digital technologies so as to ensure they are accessible to everyone.
We will implement staggered school holidays. Holiday dates will be set on a county-by-county basis to avoid, wherever possible, situations where families with children at more than one school end up having different holiday dates for their children. This will make holidays cheaper for families by spreading the summer holiday out and reduce unauthorised absences that happen as a result of families trying to avoid that cost. There will be no change to the length of holidays and the schedule will be consistent from year to year.
We will increase funding for land-based education, to improve pupils’ understanding of where their food comes from, the natural world around them, and how they affect the natural world. While provision of this education is up to councils, it is funded by the central government, and so increased funding is necessary to improve provision and avoid placing council budgets under further pressure.