Political party manifestos and their impact on education

The general election will be held on 4 July 2024. Ahead of voting, get to grips with what each party is promising for schools in England, and what these changes could mean for your school or trust if the party is successful.

Updated
on 13 June 2024
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Contents
  1. Conservatives
  2. Labour
  3. Liberal Democrats
  4. Green Party
  5. Reform UK

In this article, we've focused on the parties currently with seats in parliament or whose policies relate to schools in England.

We'll update this article as more policies and party manifestos are announced in the lead up to the general election. Select 'save for later' in the top-right corner of this page to be notified when this happens.

Remember, these proposals are not guaranteed – reforms may happen very slowly or not at all, even if the party that promised them is elected.

There are some policies and pieces of guidance that are currently under consultation, or haven't yet been published, like the draft update to relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) guidance, or the expected pay review.

It's not yet clear what will happen to these – we'll update our content as soon as we know about any changes.

Find out what happens if your school is asked to serve as a polling station.

Conservatives

The Conservative party has pledged changes in its manifesto, and across existing proposals and policy consultations.

Proposal to replace A-levels with Advanced British Standards

The Conservative party has proposed to replace A-level and T-level qualifications with a new system called the Advanced British Standard (ABS). See the DfE’s summary of proposals (page 29) for an outline of the key principles.

A Baccalaureate-style qualification, this will have 16 to 19-year-old pupils study:

  • ‘Typically’ a minimum of 5 subjects, in a major/minor format with different depths of study
  • Both English and maths to at least minor level

The ABS also involves pupils spending more hours in the classroom. The policy paper proposes a minimum of 1,475 hours taught over 2 years (up from the 1,280 hours for most A-level pupils).

The consultation on the ABS closed on 20 March 2024.

Pupils currently taking or preparing for A-levels won't be affected, because the ABS is a long-term reform project, expected to take around 10 years to deliver in full (if implemented). 

The ABS proposal (see pages 38 to 39) includes considering:

  • The number and length of GCSE exams, and the time spent sitting/marking them
  • How digital solutions may be used

The Conservative party's manifesto also states that the ABS will include learning English and maths up to the age of 18 (page 26).

Teacher bonuses and retention

The Conservatives have pledged bonus payments of £30,000 (spread over 5 years) for teachers in 'priority areas and STEM subjects' in their manifesto (page 26).

The manifesto also promises to expand recruitment and retention premiums, and reduce teacher workload.

Statutory ban on phones in the classroom

The Conservative party has pledged to make guidance on banning mobile phones during the school day a statutory requirement, which all schools must follow.

The manifesto promises funding for schools to support the ban (page 19).

New legislation on sex, gender and RSE

The Conservative manifesto pledges to:

  • Pass legislation that requires schools to follow the draft guidance on 'gender questioning' pupils (page 59) 
  • Introduce legislation that clarifies the definition of 'sex' as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act means 'biological sex' (page 59)
  • Deliver new legislation that requires schools to share all teaching materials with parents/carers, especially on 'sensitive matters' like relationships and sex education (page 27)

This may impact your school or trust's duties under the Equality Act 2010 in areas including:

  • Providing toilets for pupils and staff
  • Training around discrimination and protected characteristics
  • Duties towards transgender pupils and staff

Other manifesto items

The Conservative party has pledged to:

  • Protect day-to-day school spending in 'real terms per pupil' (page 26)
  • Mandate 2 hours of PE every week in primary and secondary schools, covered by an extension of the PE and sport premium to secondary schools (page 26)
  • Expand the coverage of mental health support teams to all schools in England by 2030 (page 42)
  • Ban protests outside of schools (page 46)

Labour

The Labour party has set out its pledges for education in its manifesto, mostly in the section 'Break down barriers to opportunity'.

Pledges on pay, recruitment and retention

Labour has pledged to recruit 6,500 new expert teachers, get more teachers into 'shortage subjects' and support local areas that face recruitment challenges. 

It will aim to retain teachers and leaders across the sector by:

  • Updating the early career framework (ECF) and maintaining its grounding in evidence
  • Introducing a teacher training entitlement, to make sure teachers stay up to date on best practice
  • Reviewing the way bursaries are allocated, as well as the structure of retention payments
  • Improving leadership through a new mentoring framework 

Labour has also said that it will reinstate the school support staff negotiating body, to address recruitment and retention in support roles. 

Ofsted inspection reforms proposed

The Labour party has proposed replacing single-word Ofsted inspections with report cards telling parents and carers clearly how schools are performing. 

Additionally, it has announced plans to:

  • Include multi-academy trusts into the inspection system
  • Introduce a new annual review of safeguarding, attendance and off-rolling

Labour has also announced plans for new regional support teams, who will work with schools in response to the areas for improvement identified in report cards. They'll be based on systems of peer-to-peer learning and best practice from other schools.

Pledges for curriculum review

The Labour party has pledged a review of curriculum and assessment, working with school staff, parents/carers and employers, which will include:

  • Improving the quality of maths teaching across nurseries and primary schools
  • Looking at the right balance of assessment methods, while protecting the role of exams
  • Funding evidence-based early-language interventions in primary schools
  • Supporting children to study a creative or vocational subject until they're 16
  • Protecting time for PE
  • Making sure schools address misogyny, and teach pupils about healthy relationships and consent

It has also pledged to guarantee 2 weeks' worth of work experience for every young person, and improve careers advice in schools and colleges. 

The Labour party has also proposed a national music education network, with information on courses and classes for parents and carers, teachers and pupils. 

Inclusion and mental health proposals

The Labour party plans to introduce a requirement that all schools co-operate with their LA on admissions, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) inclusion and place planning. 

Other pledges include:

  • Introducing a community-wide approach to improving SEND inclusivity and expertise in mainstream schools
  • Making sure special schools cater to those with the most complex needs
  • Free breakfast clubs in every primary school
  • Extending childcare by opening 3,000 primary school-based nurseries
  • Introducing a supervised tooth-brushing scheme for 3 to 5 year-olds, focused in the areas with the highest needs
  • Limiting the number of branded items of uniform that schools can require

Labour has also pledged to provide access to specialist mental health professionals in every school, 'so every young person has access to early support to address problems before they escalate'. 

It has also announced plans for 'young futures hubs' in communities, including open-access, drop-in mental health hubs for children and young people.

Qualified teacher status proposals

The Labour party plans to introduce a new requirement for every new teacher to hold (or be working towards) qualified teacher status (QTS).

This would change requirements for academies and independent schools, which currently don’t require teachers to hold QTS. 

Other Labour proposals include:

  • Single unique identifier for children – this would improve data-sharing across public services
  • End VAT exemption for private schools – this would also end business rates relief for the schools affected, and Labour says it would invest the money into state schools

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats party has published its education commitments in section 8 of its For a Fair Deal manifesto.

It includes commitments on:

Teacher retention and recruitment

The Lib Dems have committed to:

  • Creating a teacher workforce strategy to support the recruitment of subject specialists 
  • Reforming the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), with fully-funded annual pay rises
  • Introducing a new professional development programme for teachers, including training on parental engagement

School funding

  • Extending pupil premium funding to disadvantaged young people aged 16-18 as part of a new Young People's Premium, and to children in kinship care
  • Creating a new free entitlement to extracurricular activities for disadvantaged children
  • Where appropriate, redirecting capital funding to help clear the backlog of school building repairs

SEND

The manifesto also sets out promises to:

  • Increase local authority (LA) SEND funding, to reduce the amount that schools pay towards pupils' education, health and care (EHC) plans
  • Establish a new National Body for SEND, to fund support for children with very high needs
  • Give LAs new powers to act as strategic education authorities for SEND functions

Ofsted

The Liberal Democrats have said that they'll end single-word Ofsted judgements. 

The party has also pledged reforms to give schools guidance and support to improve, following inspections.

Other pledges

The Lib Dems will also:

  • Establish a commission on curriculum and assessment, and include arts subjects in the English Baccalaureate
  • Implement a new parental engagement strategy, including new guidance on providing accessible information to parents
  • Give LAs new powers and resources, including responsibility for places planning, exclusions and admissions 

Green Party

The Green Party's manifesto sets out the following proposals for education:

  • A £8bn increase in school funding, including £2bn set aside for a teacher pay 'uplift'
  • The abolishment of Ofsted
  • The end of 'high-stakes testing' in primary and secondary schools
  • Free school meals for all pupils, and free breakfast clubs for primary pupils
  • 'Adequate' support in the school system for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and neurodivergent children
  • Growing, preparing and cooking food to be included in the core curriculum

Reform UK

Reform UK's draft 'contract' includes the following priorities for schools:

  • Banning smartphones and social media in schools for pupils under the age of 16
  • Banning the teaching of critical race theory and gender 'ideology', and keeping sex education age-appropriate

Article Updates

13 June 2024

We updated this article with information from the Labour Party manifesto.

12 June 2024

We updated this article with information from the Conservative and Green Party manifestos.

11 June 2024

We've updated this article with the latest pledges from The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.

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