To what extent have governments and political parties agreed on how best to raise educational standards in Britain since 1997? "Education, education, education" was how Tony Blair set out his priorities for office as Labour in their 1997 manifesto campaigned to put classrooms at the top of the political agenda thus education would be a 'number one priority'. 12 years on and Gordon Brown's 'passion' is for education.
With the general election drawing near and the global recession taking a toll on public finances, there is a broad-spectrum of agreement on importance of raising educational standards whilst maintain equal opportunities for all both the fortunate and forgotten taken into consideration and career prospects for all. There is however different views on how these standards should be achieved. Since 1997, New Labour has emphasised the importance of raising educational standards. It is now crucial to see how this can be sustained at a time of public spending cuts.
All 3 main political parties are in consensus to raise these standards and for front line services to be protected. However where this funding should be injected is where parties differ. Labour has stated i?? 2 billion will be cut from the school budget. A further 3000 senior staffs from heads, deputies and bureaucrats could be cut as schools become federations. This method is believed to save i?? 250 million by reducing senior posts. The federation model too can save another i?? 500 million. A further 10% could be cut on schools spending budget on equipments and facilities.
However pressure group National Head Teachers Union (NHTU) opposes the federation proposals. The Conservatives and Lib Dems are in consensus to the belief that no cuts should be made. The Conservatives want more private involvement and more business involved whereas The Lib Dems intend to scrap measures such as the Child Trust Fund which pays out i?? 500 million a year to place more money into maintaining standards. The parties too agree on rebuilding and refurbishing all schools to ensure hygiene is retained.
All parties are persistent in that they do not want to see a wasted generation to poverty; unemployment and crime thus believe it is vital that hidden talents are unlocked. To help children from disadvantage areas again is a vital agreement to prevent social depravity. Both Labour and Conservatives are in consensus however it can be argued that the Conservatives recently shifted to this view and abandoned their traditional ideologies as they supported the middle class rich people more.
The aim of improving behavior and raise an excellent school for children too is an area of agreement. All parties are in agreement to raise the leaving age to 18. Labour introduced a Behaviour Challenge to ensure all good schools have good discipline. This to a certain extent can be viewed similar with the Conservatives who alternatively have proposed a 'troops to teachers' scheme to get ex-soldiers to tackle indiscipline and improve leadership. The Lib Dems however wish to create a 'pupil premium' which pays schools more to take pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This extends school provision and smaller class sizes to 15 across the country. They wish to introduce a universal entitlement to free childcare for all children from 18 months to when they start school so all children regardless of wealth have a fair start and this additional funding would be targeted towards those most in need of extra support. This goes some way to show that parties are in consensus within their aims but differ in applying these aims into practise. The 1988 Education Reform Act has had an insightful effect on schooling in Britain.
The main provisions of the Education Reform Act were a national curriculum being introduced 4 key stages and league tables. This was brought in under by Margaret Thatcher. For government and parties it has opened areas of consensus where parties unite in agreement to improve but fluctuate on how these improvements should be made. All parties are in consensus that the testing system needs to be revised. Labour and Lib Dems are in consensus to retain testing at the end of key stage 2.
Labour wants to introduce report cards where parents get all the information they require hence enables choice for parents which is another area of consensus. Lib Dems however propose slimmer versions of national testing consequently reducing pressure for both pupils and staff. They too would scrap the 600 page national curriculum to about 20 pages. Alternatively, the Conservatives have announced to scrap key stage 2 SATS but introduce a reading test which children undertake 2 years after primary to ensure their reading is fluent.
They believe that we have too much test and in this too much testing there is a lack of rigour. Pressure groups NHTU and National Union for Teachers (NUT) agree as they believe current tests damage both schools and children and the curriculum is narrowed. School league tables have been kept since 1988. This has been an area of consensus to maintain as it helps provide choice for parents which is essential to uphold fairness and power remains with parents. However the Conservatives plan to reform the school league tables and introduce a point system.
Points will be given to schools where pupils are taking academically demanding A-Levels such as maths and physics. This is because they oppose how Labour kept the league tables as weaker students are forced to undertake easy subjects to maintain the school a good position on league tables. They believe ranking schools on the proportion of students attaining a C grade and above at GCSE is flawed, as teachers feel pressured to concentrate on borderline C-grade pupils while able students are ignored. Outstanding schools would be exempt from Ofsted inspections, to allow inspectors to focus on failing schools.
The Ofsted framework would be radically simplified so that inspections focussed on teaching and learning. The Conservatives would also cut back on bureaucracy and reduce the intrusive regulation which holds back good teachers. The Lib Dems wish to replace the Governments 5 good GCSE's with an average points system. Within testing and tables it is clearly evident that there is a consensus stemming out but there are different branches of proposals from parties all intending to reform this issue and preserve high standards at a time of financial difficultly.
Academies were Labour's flagship policy where failing schools would be shut down and reopened state funded and managed by sponsors. This has been an immense way to improve standards as opportunities are given to deteriorating schools. The milestone of 200 academies is now a year ahead of target with plans to open a further 200. Both the government and opposition agree that failing schools should be academies and aim to tackle under achieving schools so standards can be maintained and improved where possible.
This however is a major ideological shift for the Conservatives as they disagreed with academies and were in support for selective education. For academies to be set up they require i?? 25 million from the state and i?? 2 million from private companies. Labour however is abandoning this sponsorship fee for private companies to pay more. This to an extent mirrors the Conservatives who place emphasis on more private involvement and wish for more independence for these academies. They within 100 days of government close failing schools and reopen them as academies.
In their 2009 spring conference they planned primary academies and stated that primary schools will receive more freedom from council control and power over curriculum, budget and hours. This conversely has been criticised NUT as they consider this to be financially impossible especially at a time where cuts have to be made. The Lib Dems have not stated much about academies. Academies have faced immense criticism on the notion that little money is paid by companies but they have a vast impact on the curriculum and concerns have arisen regarding paying conditions.
The amount of money going in could maybe spent better on existing schools as it is too early to tell the success of academies. NUT disagrees with academies as they believe that privatisation is wrong in which a 2 tier system is created and this gives birth to the death of the comprehensive ideal. This shows that all parties crucially agree that failing schools should be given an opportunity but again different viewpoints are adopted by parties on how these opportunities should occur and what role the state should play.