One key view held by everyone not just politicians and government, but teachers and parents too, is that there should not be a wasted generation. But to achieve this, it needs to be made note of that not all students learn best and maximise their potential in a school environment, some are suited in skills based learning hence government and parties agree of more skills based learning. Both Labour and Conservatives are determined to increase the number of apprenticeships available.
Labour has introduced a September Guarantee in which they are funding a guaranteed place at training and apprenticeships places for students whom do not wish to stay on for A- Levels. The Conservatives wish to triple the amount of apprenticeships to 30,000. New 14-19 Diploma's have become available to bridge the divide between academic and vocational education. The teachings have started in September 2008 in 4 subject areas. A further 5 subjects were introduced in 2009. In 2010 another 5 will be introduced.
In addition, a new General Diploma will, from 2011, recognise achievement in the equivalent of five A*-C grades at GCSE level, including English and maths. The aim is to increase enrolment from 12,000 to about 40,000. The Lib Dems are in consensus with the last option as they intend to create a general diploma which incorporates GCSE's, A-Levels and vocational qualification. Alternatively however, the Conservatives are planning not to introduce the 2010 diplomas but are promising a new type of "technical school" in 12 cities across England.
These will be funded from the academy budget and place prior focus on engineering and science linked to business and universities. They criticise the new 14-19 Diploma qualifications by saying the first wave of Diplomas have been characterised by low take-up and poor. They aim to re-direct funding intended to promote Diplomas to create more apprenticeships instead. This to them, is crucial to tackling youth unemployment and recovering from the recession. However this has been criticised by NASUWT as they believe this would increase the segregation between academic and vocational paths.
NUT criticised the Conservatives of planning to 'pigeonhole' youngsters. Although this suggests differences in policies, it is clearly evident that the principles are the same in that all parties aim to stop NEETs, youth crime and poverty by looking at their needs and proving a diverse range of options available. The 50% target for young people to go university was a brain child of Labours 2001 election manifesto, as it is something all parties agree with because they believe this will help widen the future economy as people will have higher level of skills.
Currently there are 43% of students studying in England thus the New Labour aspiration of 50% entering higher education by 2010 is fast becoming nothing more than a dream. Conservatives believe this policy is a 'good opportunity to bring this whole issue back to life' However, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) believes this target should be abandoned as it is arbitrary and meaningless. Nevertheless the National Union of Students (NUS) attacked this view as 'grown hypocrisy from the fat cats at CBI).
The Million + group and Association of Teachers + Lecturers mirror this view as they believe the CBI's proposals are arrogant and elitist. The Labour government sees increased numbers of entrants to higher education as a vital part to both education and economy. Increased numbers are attending hence all parties agree to provide more spaces. Labour has pledged to open or commit funding to 20 new university campuses over 6 years. Conservatives too pledge 10, 000 places if they are elected. However universities have become short of funding.
This has become a huge burden for taxpayers and opens the issue of who pays. Is it students or taxpayers? The government is set to launch a review of the long-term funding of higher education later this autumn, but the final decision on raising tuition fees is unlikely to be made until after the general election. There has been a major ideological shift for The Lib Dems who believed that tuition fees should be scrapped as it should be the taxpayer paying. This was so it would not deter poorer families from seeking higher education for their children.
They now however believe that students should pay as at a time of financial difficulty students should contribute for something they want to do. The Conservatives however would give a 10% discount on student loan repayments to those who paid ahead of schedule. However NUS believe that with this only those from affluent backgrounds will benefit from this and those from the poorest backgrounds are likely to lose out. More than half of university heads want students to pay at least i?? 5,000 per year or for there to be no upper limit.
This has angered the NUS, who want to entirely replace the fee system with repayments linked to later earnings. This shows that there is a consensus to improve higher education standards but again different routes are taken by parties some of which are short term benefits like the conservatives and long term such as Labour and tuition fees. In conclusion it can be said that in theory consensus is apparent as the core aims of education such as maintaining standards, ensuring students are attending university and both choices and opportunities to be available.
In practise however, different standpoints are implemented by each party on how these goals should be achieved and how the gap between the fortunate and forgotten should be bridged. The current financial crisis has led to questions about where cuts will fall, what opportunities are available for failing schools, skills based learners and for students intending to enter higher education thus it is here where the consensus detaches.