High quality education is consistently a public priority in opinion polls. The quality of education is also a key driver of productivity and economic success, as well as social mobility and inclusion.
It is to be welcomed that all of the main parties make aspirational statements to improve education in their manifestos.
The Conservative manifesto notes that: “Talent and genius are uniformly distributed throughout the country. Opportunity is not. Now is the time to close that gap… Every child should have the same opportunity to express their talents and make the most of their lives…”
The Labour manifesto promises a National Education Service to “nurture every child and adult to find a path that’s right for them”. The Liberal Democrats pledge to “give every child the best start in life, no matter their ability or background”.
This analysis of the manifesto promises of the five main parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Brexit parties) seeks to assess the likely impact of each of their education policies, considers how far these seem to be based on the best research available and judges whether the stated aspirations are likely to be met in practice.
While there are some notable differences in the policies of each main party, all are promising a more generous funding settlement for education than has been the case since 2010. But the parties are proposing to spend different amounts of money on different phases of education and targeted in different ways. There are some important differences in both the likely cost pressures arising from each party’s plans as well as the impact they will have on pupil outcomes and equity.
None of the parties make reference to how they plan to secure value for money from the additional investment in schools or to support schools to make efficiency savings where needed.
In the case of each party, spending commitments are contingent on higher taxes, savings or other revenue sources. The Conservative plans assume that the growth impact of Brexit will be moderate; the Labour plans assume the same, and also rely upon large tax revenues from a limited number of sources; meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are banking on a ‘remain bonus’, and revenues from uncertain sources such as tax avoidance. With all parties, it is unclear how education spending plans would be altered if revenues prove less robust than planned.
You can download the full executive summary and introduction here.