Supporting education: Labour and Tories set out their plans

The recent annual political party conferences have seen hard-hitting manifesto pledges from all of the main parties. But what are their plans for education? We outline the main points.

Supporting education: Labour and Tories set out their plans
As the annual party conference season comes to an end, we take a look at the key points from the education promises made by Labour and the Conservatives.

Conservative Party

In a speech that covered a wide range of school issues, education secretary, Justine Greening, highlighted five key areas of education focus for the Conservative party.

Improving literacy and numeracy before Year 1

Ms Greening announced aims to strengthen numeracy and literacy in the early years, to provide children with “the best start in life”. The initiative will come from the next round of the £140m strategic school improvement fund.

Expanding regional maths and English hubs

The Conservatives pledged to invest an additional £6m in math hubs “to put them in more areas where we want them to make the biggest difference,” said Ms Greening. She also announced a new £12m programme to create a network of English hubs in the Northern Powerhouse to “further improve early language and literacy”.

Teacher recruitment and retention

Ms Greening pledged to commit funding to bringing more teachers into the profession and keeping them. “We will invest more than £30 million in tailored support for getting more great teachers in some of the schools that struggle the most with recruitment and retention.”

Student loans reimbursement for teachers

She also pledged to introduce a pilot student loan reimbursement programme targeted at subjects and areas of the country that need it the most. The scheme would benefit about 1,700 science teachers and 800 modern foreign language teachers a year, in the early stage of their careers.The DfE said that a typical teacher in their fifth year would benefit from about £540 through the reimbursements – more, if a teacher had additional responsibilities.

Focus on alternative provision

Ms Greening promised to transform alternative provision so that no pupils outside of mainstream education are left behind. She explained that the Conservatives would “bring forward proposals to ensure that alternative provision is the best it can be, and that the best practice already there in this field becomes the norm, so that it gives all the young people in it the opportunity to fulfil their potential.” 
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Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rainer outlined the party promises on education – Labour's proposal for a National Education Service (NES) from early years through to adult education. The service will be built on the principle that 'Every Child - and Adult – Matters’. Key points from the Labour manifesto on education include:

Improving school facilities

£8bn for new buildings and £13bn to bring the existing school estate up to scratch, by removing dangerous features like asbestos and flammable cladding, and installing sprinklers.

Reversing cuts to 'Sure Start'

£500m per year to reverse cuts to the Sure Start programme. Ms Rayner praised the benefits of Sure Start, many of which she said she had received as a teenage mother.

Improved pay for teachers

Labour would remove the public sector pay cap to ensure that teachers were paid ‘properly’. She also promised a return to national standards for teaching assistants and support staff to prevent them working for the minimum wage.“Learning needs teaching,” she said. “Teachers would be at the heart of the National Education Service. And we will pay them properly to do it. That is why we will bring an end to the public sector pay cap, [for] teaching assistants and support staff too. Many have lost so much that they are on the minimum wage. We will bring back national standards for them too. They look after our children, we should look after them.”

A boost for further education

Ms Rayner pledged to invest £1bn into further education to make a “success” of delivering the governments T-level technical qualifications. "Further education isn’t just for those who didn’t get the chance to go to university, it serves the majority of young people," Ms Rayner said."So...we promise in our manifesto that we will invest a billion pounds into further education and to service and to deliver T levels that are a true gold standard.”

An end to period poverty

Ms Rayner also discussed “period poverty”, which she said would be tackled with a £10 million transfer from the free schools budget to pay for free sanitary products for girls. This comes in the wake of a report earlier in the year which found that girls were missing school because they couldn’t afford sanitary products.
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