Following the pandemic’s disruption and over a decade of austerity, the education system in England faces a number of challenges in the years ahead. But, with a general election anticipated next year, there is a genuine risk that education will not secure the profile it requires given wider economic issues and demands on public services.

For the first time, the Education Policy Institute, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is providing a summary of the best evidence on current education challenges and effective policy interventions in order to assist political parties in drawing up their manifesto pledges on education. We make a number of calls on any incoming government.

In the early years this means:

  • Simplifying the funding system and weighting it more heavily toward children from low-income families and children with SEND.
  • Publishing and implementing an early years strategy that will create a sustainable model for providers that is also affordable for families, including rolling out the Family Hub model in England.

In schools this means:

  • Tackling widening gaps in pupil attainment between vulnerable learners and their peers.
  • Reforming the current accountability framework, to ensure it is not adversely impacting education. 
  • Clarifying the role of local authorities within the now predominantly academised school system.
  • Providing mental health support throughout schools.

In post-16 and higher education this means:

  • Heightening incentives to encourage greater numbers of young people to pursue apprenticeships and carrying out a broader review of post-16 qualifications.
  • Increasing the financial sustainability of institutions in the higher education sector and create a progressive student finance model that better supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Introducing maintenance support for adults seeking to re-skill.

For school and college funding this means:

  • Increasing per pupil funding, ensuring capital expenditure is sufficient to maintain and improve the school and college estate, and better supporting schools to deliver their wider roles, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
  • Ensuring funding is targeted at closing the disadvantage gap, through increasing the pupil premium and directing additional funding towards persistently disadvantaged pupils.
  • Extending pupil premium funding to cover pupils with child protection plans and relevant students in post-16 education, and addressing relatively low funding for 16-19 education more broadly.  
  • Reforming high needs funding, increasing funding amounts and amending the formula to better reflect current needs.

And in relation to the education workforce this means:

  • Establishing greater parity between teacher pay and salaries found in competitor occupations.
  • Supporting retention through a focus on improving teacher wellbeing, workload and flexible working arrangements.
  • Recognising the benefits of high-quality CPD and supporting its delivery.  

Education should be a priority for any party vying for power and we urge that consideration be given to the independent and evidence-based recommendations in this report.

Following the publication of party manifestos, we will publish further analysis examining whether education pledges made by political parties in England are likely to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities, and what the likely cost might be.

Read the report in full here:

This report has kindly been funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-founder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Website: Twitter: @NuffieldFound