Voter registration, the magic of rosemary and what the party manifestoes mean for education.
The Guardian reports that Theresa May’s pledge to end free school lunches for infants will predominantly impact the ‘ordinary, hard-working families’ she has promised to help. It could affect as many as 900,000 children from struggling families, costing them an additional c.£440 a year, in a move that is intended to save £650 million annually. May’s social care policy has been criticised by Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron, here election opponents, and prompted a furious response from Jamie Oliver, calling her school lunches decision ‘a disgrace’. Oliver also pointed out the likely effect on teachers of having to deal with underfed children. However, an opinion piece in the same newspaper highlights support for universities in the Tory manifesto, namely through support for science, and improving skills in the British workforce.
The Tory manifesto also announced the possibility of writing off student loans for teachers after they have spent a certain number of years in the profession, as way of tackling the current teacher retention crisis, the Independent reports. However, this could be dependent on working in challenging areas, or certain subjects (maths and sciences, for example), while critics point out more must be done to retain current teachers, not just to attract new ones.
The BBC reports that the Labour party has pledged to put £25.3 billion into a ‘national education service’ in England, funded by extra tax revenue. The Labour Party says it will scrap tuition fees in England, which were increased to more than £9,000 a year under the coalition government. Labour promises to reintroduce maintenance allowances, limit class sizes and extend free childcare to 30 hours for all two-year-olds. Labour says it would abandon plans to reintroduce baseline assessments and review national curriculum tests (known as Sats) for Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils, to discourage “teaching by test”. Corbyn wants the NES (national education system to): “[give] people confidence and hope by making education a right, not a privilege, and building bridges where the Conservatives build barriers.” Education leaders welcomed Corbyn’s proposals, especially amid the current schools funding crisis, but highlighted the need for them to be delivered ‘with adequate funding, based on proper costings.’
BBC: The Liberal Democrats will invest an extra £5.8bn in England’s school budgets, the party’s manifesto reveals. School budgets and the pupil premium for disadvantaged children would rise to protect them against rising costs.
The party also promises 15 hours free childcare for two-year-olds in England and more access to flexible working. They will reintroduce maintenance grants for poorer students, but will not abolish tuition fees. They would scrap the expansion of grammar schools, and pledged to protect per-pupil funding in real terms and introduce a fairer national funding system “so that no school loses money” in the face of “an unprecedented funding crisis.” The Lib Dems also promise free school meals for all primary schools in England, scrapping the 1% cap on teachers’ pay rises and working to end “unnecessary teacher workloads,” to tackle the problem of teachers leaving the profession. They plan to “raise the quality of early years provision”, while increasing free term-time childcare for under-twos and encouraging flexible working hours so new parents can share responsibilities more equally. The manifesto says its commitments for education and the family would be funded by increasing income tax by a penny and raising corporation tax from 19% to 20%.
The Association of School and College Leaders said it welcomed the commitment to improve education funding from both the Lib Dems and the Labour party.
General secretary Geoff Barton said: “Labour and the Liberal Democrats have recognised the importance of ensuring that schools and colleges are properly funded, and we are sure that the public will expect the Conservatives to invest in the future of our young people too.”
According to the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), young people in the UK face a “voter registration time bomb”, with the number of school leavers registered to vote dropping by more than a quarter over the past three years. Universities are also no longer able to register student residents automatically, and the introduction of the Individual Electoral Registration (IER) means everyone in a household must register individually, instead of a parent/lead tenant registering on behalf of everyone in a household. This has contributed to the loss of thousands of voters, with many areas seeing the biggest drop having significant student populations, as well as black and minority ethnicity constituencies, where young people are less likely to have registered independently. Campaigners suggest more needs to be done to engage young people, ‘or we risk losing a whole generation of voters.’ If you or your family haven’t already, register to vote here!
Head teachers across the country have sent out letters urging parents to tackle their local candidates on the financial difficulties schools are facing, with real-terms cuts and a £3 billion funding gap. The letter says:
“Head teacher colleagues and I feel that ahead of the forthcoming general election it is crucial that parents, carers and all other interested parties raise the issue of school funding ‘on the doorstep’ with all prospective candidates.
“It would be naïve to think that school funding is the only issue affecting everyone’s lives but school finances are in such a dreadful state that we believe that it is vital to urge you to raise it as a key issue prior to 8 June.
“As professionals we are only interested in securing fair and adequate funding for the children that we educate. This is under severe threat and has influenced our decision to contact you in a collaborative manner.”
The increased government focus on EBacc (English Baccalaureate) subjects is having a detrimental effect on the arts, and design technology – despite “the wider demand for these skills from UK industry”. The EBacc is a performance measure based on pupils’ grades in five subjects: English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences (including computing) and a language – and it is now affecting teaching applications. The number of would-be Geography teachers has leapt 97%, while History places increased 42%, while numbers have dropped by 11% for trainee teachers in design and technology and food technology, while also falling in music and drama. These figures are also mirrored for pupils, with students increasingly favouring EBacc subjects over arts subjects.
Following a scientific study from Northumbria university proving the effectiveness of rosemary for improving memory, it seems parents have been buying it in bulk. Holland & Barrett said its sales of Rosemary Essential Oil increased by 270% the week after the Northumbria University study was published, and by 187% compared with the same time last year.
Lawrence Kemp, a second-year business management student at the University of Gloucesteshire, became an overnight hero of the student community after a Snapchat video of him submitting an essay from a night out went viral. However, the video was (disappointingly) revealed to be part of a friend’s film project, rather than a serious essay submission.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.