The results of yesterday’s general election has caused a lot of uncertainty, not least for schools. Here we outline what schools might expect.
- A new Prime Minister? Whilst Theresa May is likely to continue as Prime Minister in the short term, there is a great deal of discontentment within her party about the way that this campaign was conducted. There is a good chance, therefore, that there will be a new Prime Minister relatively soon. Whoever this might be, they will have their own ideas about schools.
- An end to the grammar schools project? The drive to reintroduce grammar schools is largely seen as a pet project of Theresa May and her team – particularly Nick Timothy, one of her chiefs of staff – rather than the DfE. With May and Timothy weakened by the election result and the lack of a Conservative majority in the Commons, it looks unlikely that the expansion of selective education will take place.
- A new Education Secretary? When it looked likely that the Conservatives would return with an increased majority, there was a strong feeling that Justine Greening might be moved from Education and replaced with someone more favourable to grammar schools. Now that grammar schools look like they may be off the table, it is possible that Greening may stay. Grammars aside, she was seen to be doing a relatively good job and to be committed to rebuilding the profession. However, reshuffles often follow elections so we could be due another new Education Secretary.
- The death of the National Funding Formula? The National Funding Formula has proved very unpopular, including among parts of the Conservative Party. It is very likely that the new Government will revisit the formula and either make significant changes or abandon the change altogether.
- Schools less of a priority? Brexit will dominate – more now than ever before. We can also expect economic issues to return to the fore and a continued focused on health. It is likely, therefore, that schools will slip down the priority list unless the profession ensures its voice is clearly heard.
New faces in education?
There is a vacancy within the Department for Education as Edward Timpson, Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, lost his Crewe and Nantwich seat.
Another influential education figure who has failed to return to Parliament was Neil Carmichael, Conservative chair of the education select committee, who lost Stroud to Labour.
What did the Conservative manifesto say on education?
In the run-up to this year’s General Election, the Conservative Party launched their manifesto “Forward, Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future”.
The pledges made to the education sector were listed in a section titled “The world’s great meritocracy”. Below is a summary of their promises and plans:
- Deliver more school places by ending the ban on selective schools and continuing the free schools programme, aiming to build 100 new ones each year
- Prohibit councils from creating any new places in schools that have been rated either Inadequate or Requires Improvement
- Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools
- Increase overall schools budget by £4bn by 2022 and ensure no school is worse off as part of the new funding formula
- Open a specialist maths school in every major city in England
- Introduce a curriculum fund for developing knowledge-rich materials
- Expect 75% of pupils to have entered EBacc subjects by end of next parliament, with 90% by 2025
- Offer forgiveness on student loan repayments for teachers to help retain them within the profession
- Create a jobs portal for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help with recruitment
- Offer free school breakfast to all primary school pupils and scrap universal infant free school meals
- Introduce mental health first aid training for teachers in every school
- Replace unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules preventing establishment of new Roman Catholic schools
The Conservative Party also wants to create more nurseries by introducing the presumption that all new primary schools should include one. They promise to deliver a world-class technical education by replacing 13,000 existing technical qualifications with the new T-levels.
However, it is unclear how much of the manifesto will be implemented if the Conservatives form a minority government. It is worth also looking, therefore, at what the DUP – the Conservatives’ likely partners – have said on education. The main focus on education in their manifesto is funding and resourcing. They have pledged to resolve “the funding crisis facing our schools”. This could potentially place more pressure on the Conservatives to increase the schools’ budget.