The Queen today unveiled the government’s legislative priorities for the next two years.
But while the speech set out laws the government wants to pass, it was silent on a series of promises made in the Conservative election manifesto.
Senior Tory figures have acknowledged the list of commitments would have to be “pruned” after Theresa May lost her Commons majority, and Tes understands that Justine Greening has told DfE staff they will have to find creative ways to implement commitments so that they do not require new legislation.
The fate of many pledges remains uncertain, and sources close to the Department for Education said more clarity on these is likely to emerge in the coming weeks. Here is where things stand following the Queen's Speech:
Mentioned in the Queen's Speech
- More funding for schools? Speech includes committment to ensure "all schools are fairly funded" The government has indicated that the national funding formula for schools that it recently consulted on will go ahead in some form. This is is the fourth attempt in two decades to iron out the huge disparities in school funding, and has proved controversial. The Conservative manifesto pledged that no school would see its budget cut under the new formula. It is not clear if the government has the votes to push the reform through the Commons, and the Queen's Speech did not promise any legislation on this. Tes understands ministers are exploring ways of introducing the formula without formally changing the powers of local authorities, avoiding the need for a new law There was no explicit mention of increasing funding for all schools in today's speech. But an accompanying briefing says "the government has committed to increase the school budget further." The Tory manifesto promised to increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion by 2022 School funding emerged as a key election issue, and this pledge would still have left schools facing real-terms cuts in pupil funding. Behind closed doors, Justine Greening pushed for a more generous election pledge, and the government is under pressure from its own side to increase school funding to neutralise the issue
- Technical education. The Queen said the government would "work to ensure that people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future" with "a major reform of technical education".
- The government said it will publish a green paper on children and young people's mental health "focused on helping our youngest and most vulnerable members of society receive the best start in life". The manifesto committed the government to publishing this "before the end of this year".
Not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, but expected to go ahead:
- Build at least 100 new free schools a year. In his spring budget, chancellor Philip Hammond allocated more than £800 million for new free schools in the period up to 2021-22
- Every 11-year-old to know their times tables off by heart. Education minister Nick Gibb said in February, before the election was called, that the times table check would be introduced in 2018-19
- Bear down on the unnecessary paperwork and burden of Ofsted inspections. This would not require legislation, and would be popular with teachers
- Protect the pupil premium. This is a continuation of existing policy
- Continue bursaries to attract top graduates into teaching. This is a continuation of existing policy
Could still go ahead
Conservative election promises not mentioned in the Queen’s speech, but which could still go ahead:
- Expect 75 per cent of pupils to be entered for the EBacc by 2022, rising to 90 per cent in 2025. The government has still not published the results of its EBacc consultation, which closed in January 2016
- Remove the admissions cap on new faith schools, which stops them selecting more than half of pupils on the basis of faith. There have been reports this policy would be dropped, but because the cap is not set in legislation, it could be lifted without the need to pass a new law
- Ensure at least 100 leading independent schools will become involved in sponsoring academies or founding free schools, and “keep open the option” of changing the tax status of private schools “if enough progress is not made”. This was proposed in the Schools that Work for Everyone consulation, and the government's intentions are likely to become clearer when it responds to its consultation
- Universities will have to become involved in academy sponsorship or founding free schools if they want to change maximum tuition fees. This was proposed in the Schools that Work for Everyone consulation, and the government's intentions are likely to become clearer when it responds to its consultation
- Ban councils from creating any new places in schools rated "inadequate" or "requires improvement"
- A specialist maths school in every major city in England
- Review the school admissions policy, but rule out a “mandatory, lottery-based school admissions policy”. The government had already started work on this
- Strengthen literacy and numeracy teaching in early years
- Improve schools’ accountability at key stage 3
- Ensure all children have access to “an academic, knowledge-rich curriculum”
- Create a curriculum fund to encourage Britain’s leading cultural and scientific institutions to help develop knowledge-rich materials for schools
- Ensure key stage 2 assessments draw from a rich knowledge base, and reduce teaching to the test
- Consider how Ofsted can give parents more information on what their children are being taught
- Offer forgiveness to student loan repayments for new teachers while they are teaching; bring in dedicated support to help them throughout their careers
- Give teacher greater in preparing lessons and marking – including through the use of technology
- Create a single jobs portal for schools to advertise vacancies
Expected to be dropped
These high-profile Conservative education pledges were conspicuous by their absence from the Queen's Speech:
- Lift the ban on new grammar schools, subject to conditions including allowing pupils to join at ages other than 11. This was Theresa May’s flagship education policy, but the loss of her majority made it highly unlikely she could get it through the House of Commons
- Scrap free school lunches for all infants and introduce free school breakfast to every child in primary school. Journalists have been briefed that scrapping universal free lunches, which proved unpopular on the doorsteps during the election campaign, will not now be axed.