18 May 2017
Commenting on the election manifesto published today by the Conservative Party, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The Conservatives’ headline pledge to give £4 billion to schools is an inadequate response to the funding crisis and a misleading presentation. Instead they are actually promising to give only £1 billion per year, which is clearly not enough when schools are facing a £3bn real terms cut in their funding. In contrast the Liberal Democrats are pledging to put in £3 billion per year and Labour £6.3 billion per year by 2020/21. The difference is stark.
“The £1 billion promised in the Conservative manifesto does nothing at all to cover the present crisis. Schools already need £2.2 billion more just to cover the impact of inflation and cost increases imposed by the Government since it was elected just two years ago. Class sizes will still go up, school staff will be reduced, subjects will be dropped from the curriculum, and school buildings will continue to fall into a state of disrepair.
“The pledge that no schools will actually have cash taken away from them will do nothing to protect them against inflation and higher costs. For many head teachers and parents these proposals will cause great anxiety and despair. The Conservatives are failing to grasp that no school is sitting on a pot of gold and that all schools need substantial additional funding to ensure that every child has a well-balanced and well-resourced education, in a school building that is fit for purpose and with the funds to employ sufficient teachers and school staff. Surely that is not too much to ask from any future Government.
“Cutting universal free school meals for 4- 7 year olds does not make sense, or represent value for money, given the investment many schools have already made in kitchens and staffing to ensure their availability. Breakfast Club are a good addition if properly funded, but getting rid of a universal offer of a hot meal in the day is mean-spirited and wrong-headed. It is a long time for a child to go without food from the morning until 3:30pm which will be the case for many families in work but struggling. If any project should be scrapped it should be the expensive and unnecessary free schools and grammar school expansion to which the Conservatives are so ideologically committed.
“We need real new money for schools and sixth form colleges; it needs to be sufficient to make a real difference to all schools. None of this will happen under these manifesto pledges. Children and young people will continue to lose out and our schools will continue to struggle to provide even a basic education for students.
“In promising to ‘go further in reforming our education system’ the manifesto misses a golden opportunity to step away from the Conservatives’ disastrous education policies, including the expansion of selective education. There is no possible template for a selective system or a ‘tutor proof' 11-plus test which gives children from poor backgrounds an equal shot to their middle class peers. We don't need EBacc targets or more accountability at Key Stage 3 to support the system.
“The manifesto promises a green paper on young people's mental health but wilfully ignores the links between the Conservatives' addiction to high-stakes testing of every child and child mental illness. It pretends to care about teacher workload but suggest even narrower ways to measure schools. It has learned not a single lesson from the fallout of its discredited accountability regime. These policies are not the levers that will deliver either excellence or equity.
“This is a smoke and mirrors manifesto.”