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Education and the General Election: the truth

21/05/15

Education is one of the cornerstones of a modern economy and while each political party had strong views on what they’ll do with this important sector there are some important questions that the new government still need to answer.

A rising birth rate and increase in immigration along with changes to the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) framework means the UK’s education system is far from secure.

There are many challenges faced by teachers and parents alike; from ensuring there are enough school places for each child to guaranteeing consistent education standards that give all children a fair chance.

Recent reports have even claimed that schools are spending more money to provide non-academic support to their pupils as more and more families turn to schools for help and turning teachers into social workers too.

Lack of school places

One of the largest problems British families have witnessed in the past few years is the lack of school places for children. The figures from this year’s results left thousands of children without a place in their primary school of choice.

Due to the large baby boom which has occurred over the past ten years, schools have failed to keep up to speed with the number of places required in order to cater for the larger population.

According to the latest report published in The Guardian; Bristol only supplied 84% of parents with their first choice of school for their child. The report suggests a large decline in the number of students receiving their first choice and an increase in the number of children that didn’t; a trend that has caused significant disappointment to parents and children alike. 

According to government estimates, a staggering 20,000 additional school places will be required by 2020 due to higher birth rates, rising immigration and a lack of national planning by both schools and local governments.

This figure has been further pushed by London which released figures on the number of primary school applications it received this year. The total stood at 103,386 – an increase of 900 places when compared to 2014.

Unsurprisingly, the rejection rate for pupils seeking school places was also the highest in the capital as almost one fifth (19%) of children did not receive their first choice school.

The launch of free schools

As an answer to the low amount of spaces available at good primary schools and education standards slowly slipping, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the addition of 49 new free schools. This would bring the total number of free schools in the UK to 410 – something which would not happen with Labour who plan to leave the concept of free schools in the past.

However, while this addition is all well and good, free schools have spurred on a great deal of controversy over the past few years due to the poor quality education sometimes provided to pupils.

The most prominent question we must ask is will these free schools be located where they are most needed? And will they deliver the same quality of education as non-free schools?

Many children play the postcode lottery over catchment areas and if schools aren’t available in areas where they’re needed then local governments could be charged with covering the costs of sending children to schools outside of their catchment zone.

Changes to OFSTED

OFSTED has been a major framework in the quality of schools and often helps parents decide where to send their child but there are big changes in the pipeline.

The leader of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) announced his plan to overhaul the current inspection system by OFSTED and this has left many questions unanswered.

In a time when education standards are not consistent throughout the country it is vital that a clear way of assessing schools is put and kept in place so that the country can ensure each child is given the academic teaching and support they need to thrive and become the leaders of tomorrow.

So, what is the new government planning?

Below is a summary of the proposals that where outlined by the new government’s manifesto.

• Protect school funding for each pupil
• Create a minimum of 500 free schools in England by 2020
• Support and turn around failing schools with a zero tolerance policy
• Provide 30 hours of free childcare for working parents (for children aged 3-4 years)

What do we think?

Firstly the new government has a big job on their hands.

What the UK needs to see are more school places and more consistent levels of education that guarantee good, fair education for all.

The government must be able to welcome and accept the challenges faced by the increase in births and immigration in order to provide all children in Britain with the very best standard of education.

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