The Liberal Democrats will launch their election manifesto this afternoon, pledging spending boosts to schools and an end to the “high-stakes culture of Ofsted inspections and testing”.
The party plans to use some of the money from the £50 billion “Remain Bonus” – the money saved through revoking Article 50 and preventing Brexit – to increase spending on schools by £10bn per year by 2024-25, as well as increasing the number of teachers by 20,000.
They have also matched the Conservatives’ promise to raise starting salaries for teachers to £30,000 per annum.
And they would ensure teachers had access to 50 hours of continuing professional development per year by 2025, as well as pledging to provide extra training for teachers delivering subjects where they did not hold a post-A level qualification.
In schools, the party also promises to “end the crisis in special educational needs and disabilities funding” by giving local authorities additional funds to halve the amount schools paid for pupils’ education, health and care plans.
In addition, they would abolish Ofsted, replacing the inspectorate with a new HM Inspector of Schools, which would “consider a broader range of factors including the social and emotional development of children, and the wellbeing of staff and pupils". Independent schools would be subject to the same inspection regime and all schools would be inspected every three years.
The Lib Dems want to replace league tables with a “broader set of indicators”, including information about the wellbeing of pupils and teachers, as well as academic attainment.
The party promises to end Sats, which have placed “unnecessary stress on pupils and teachers”, and would end “teaching to the test” by introducing moderated teacher assessments instead.
A new independent body of education experts would oversee any curriculum changes, the party said.
The manifesto promises to protect access to arts and creative subjects by abolishing the English Baccalaureate GCSE performance measure – which has been criticised for squeezing out arts subjects.
The Lib Dems want a create a “curriculum for life” in state schools, including “personal, social and health education, financial literacy, environmental awareness, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship and age-appropriate relationships and sex education”.
The party also says that there has been too much “fragmentation” of the education system, with reliance on multi-academy trusts (MATs) leading to “a lack of accountability to local communities”. It promises to give local authorities the power to act as Strategic Education Authorities for their areas, with “responsibility for places planning, exclusions, administering admissions including in-year admissions, and SEND functions”. And it would require MATs to undergo external inspections.
Other education pledges in the party's manifesto include:
- Opposing any future expansion of grammar schools.
- Providing free childcare for families from the age of nine months.
- Giving all primary pupils free school meals.
- Ensuring all teachers are trained to identify mental health issues.
- Tripling the early years pupil premium to £1,000.
- Introducing inclusive school uniform policies “that are gender-neutral and flexible enough to suit different budgets, and provide training for school staff on how to review and improve their uniform policies”.
- Giving schools a statutory duty to promote pupil wellbeing, as part of the inspection framework.
- Improving vocational education.
- Challenging early sexualisation and gender-stereotyping through working with schools to promote healthy body image.
- Introducing teaching about the healthy use of social media and providing advice for parents on helping their children to stay safe online.