Skip to main content

Your guide to the big three's election pledges

The TES looks at each party's education manifestos to see how they measure up

News article image

The TES looks at each party's education manifestos to see how they measure up


LABOURLabour introduced the masters in teaching and learning (MTL) for newly qualified teachers in challenging schools but uptake has been less than successful. The party is also trying to push through a controversial "licence to practise", renewed every five years, for all teachers, and wants to expand Teach First and Teach Next.

CONSERVATIVESThe Conservatives want to raise the status of teachers to that of Finland, Korea and Singapore, and by doing so will refuse funding for teacher training to anyone with a third-class degree. The party will require all primary teachers to have a "B" grade in both English and Maths GCSE, and will encourage masters studies in a teacher's chosen subject, as well as expand Teach First and Teach Next.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATSThe Liberal Democrats will increase the budget for the Graduate Teacher Programme, while improving the postgraduate certificate for education (PGCE). The party also wants to expand Teach First and Teach Next, and says that continuing professional development (CPD) is central to its plans for raising standards in schools.


LABOURPledged a 2.3 per cent pay rise, the final year of which begins this September. After that there will be a 1 per cent cap on pay.CONSERVATIVESIn his party conference speech, shadow chancellor George Osborne set out plans for a 12-month pay freeze on all public sector pay for anyone earning more than pound;18,000, except those serving in the Armed Forces.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATSPromised to reform and simplify the existing national teacher pay and conditions rules to give more freedom, including offering financial and other incentives to attract teachers.


LABOURThe Government's method of asking parents to list their schools by preference has attracted criticism as some believe it gives parents the illusion of exercising choice when none exists. Following last year's Rose review, it was recommended that children start primary school in the September after their fourth birthday.

CONSERVATIVESVowed to end the scramble for good school places by pledging that "every parent will have access to a good school". Will do this by redirecting capital spending to fund the creation of 220,000 new school places - the same number as the amount of children that staged an admissions appeal. Back in 2007 it was hoped the pound;4.5 billion this would cost could be siphoned off from capital expenditure but this was before the economic downturn.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATSWould give local authorities the responsibility to oversee fair admissions in their areas. Would allow them to ban practices such as banding by ability where they are being used to disadvantage young people from deprived neighbourhoods.


LABOURHave stood by key stage 2 tests despite pressure from unions the NAHT and the NUT. However, Schools Secretary Ed Balls gave his biggest hint yet late last year that he would consider dropping the tests in favour of teacher assessment after 2011. Committed to GCSEs and Diplomas, despite low uptake, and introduced the "A*" A-level.

CONSERVATIVESThe Tories will retain key stage 2 assessments and have even flirted with the unconventional idea of children sitting the tests in Year 7. The party will reform league tables, abolishing the equivalence of vocational subjects with traditional qualifications in league tables. It will also reform A-levels, increase "rigour" in GCSEs, and overhaul Diplomas.LIBERAL DEMOCRATSThe Lib Dems have also pledged to overhaul the system so assessments focus on pupils' needs rather than on school accountability. Key stage 2 tests would be dramatically pared back, assessing English and maths only.


LABOURThe party made studying modern languages optional in secondaries but mandatory in primaries, which led to a decline in pupils taking the subjects. Will make sex education mandatory in all schools and introduce a new primary curriculum based on the Rose review, adding theme-based learning and giving ICT core subject status.CONSERVATIVESAims to reform the curriculum in its first year of government, which would instruct what knowledge should be introduced and when. Once "reconstructed", the curriculum will be free from "political meddling" and reviewed every five or ten years.LIBERAL DEMOCRATSThe party would also scrap the existing curriculum, opting to replace it with a slimmed-down 20-page "minimum curriculum guarantee" specifying the core knowledge needed for pupils between the ages of seven and 19.


LABOUREd Balls presides over a greater variety of schools than any of his post- war predecessors, with maintained and specialist schools, foundations, city technology colleges, trusts and academies. The Schools Secretary has focused his attentions on working together, with chains of federated schools becoming an increasing feature.CONSERVATIVESThe party has repeatedly stressed that it wishes to strap "rocket boosters" to the academies programme, taking Sweden's "free schools" and the US charter school movement - particularly New York's KIPP network - as the basis for its proposals. Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove has pledged that all schools judged "outstanding" by Ofsted will have automatic approval to become an academy.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATSThe Lib Dems would replace the academies model with the unfortunately named Sponsor Managed Schools (SMS). The party believes academies are unfair as they offer freedoms to only a small minority of schools. The SMS model would hand local authorities the power to commission educational charities, parents, businesses and universities to run state schools.


LABOURPartly thanks to Mr Balls' elevated position in the Cabinet, the schools budget has been protected until at least 2013, with 0.7 per cent school spending increases in real terms from 2011-2013. However, the Department for Children, Schools and Families will be looking to make at least pound;1.1 billion, the bulk from "better procurement".

CONSERVATIVESAn area that is still hazy at best. It is believed that the party will dramatically restructure the funding methods currently in place and, by doing so, introduce a "pupil premium", a fixed amount of money that follows the most disadvantaged children.LIBERAL DEMOCRATSPositioning themselves as the only party to place education funding as their primary priority, the Lib Dems have pledged to use pound;2.5 billion taken from middle-class tax credits to pay for their "pupil premium".


LABOURBelieves new home-school contracts will help ensure better discipline. The "behaviour challenge" means schools with "satisfactory" ratings for behaviour will have to improve. The new parent and pupil "guarantees" state children have the right to go to a school with strong discipline. Parents also have responsibility for pupil behaviour.

CONSERVATIVESPlanning to abolish independent exclusion appeal panels and wants to further strengthen powers for teachers to use reasonable force when dealing with violent incidents without fear of legal action. Will give teachers protection from false accusations and strengthen home-school behaviour contracts, as well as powers to exclude.LIBERAL DEMOCRATSWould focus on early intervention to help curb poor behaviour speedily. Would introduce "internal exclusion zones" in primaries and secondaries and would encourage Saturday schools and after-school activities as opposed to permanent exclusions. Have also said they would improve the quality of pupil referral units.


LABOURHas already stablished the Social Partnership, creating an open dialogue with all the major unions with the exception of the NUT, which has refused to talk to the Government. The NAHT is currently not in the partnership.

CONSERVATIVESThe Tories have said they will listen to the unions, but it is expected that the party will be in regular opposition with many of them, particularly the NUT and the NASUWT. The NUT has already stated its intentions to take industrial action and stage protests against the party's free school movement.LIBERAL DEMOCRATSWould maintain the status quo with the unions, keeping the Social Partnership, and make it more inclusive.


  • Labour - Increase real-terms funding
  • Conservatives - Free schools
  • Liberal Democrats - Pupil premium.

    Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

    It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you