Education dispels fear and prejudice. It can prevent conflict by helping us see other points of view, whilst informing us of possibilities beyond our immediate experience. It’s also a route out of poverty and a way of realising our dreams. It’s one of the most powerful means of geopolitical change which is why one of the first things oppressive and restrictive governments seek to manipulate and restrict.
But it’s not all about formal education. The Green Party would shift the compulsory school age to 7, with earlier years focusing on play, social cohesion and confidence-building. We’d also encourage an increase in outdoor education and physical activity to establish an early relationship with the local environment.
We’d abolish SATS and league tables, leaving teachers free to teach instead of filling forms, whilst taking action to reduce their workload and introducing professional pay levels. We’d also ensure the right for every disabled child to a mainstream education
For other people, we’d reverse the 20-year dismantling of the lifelong learning sector and provide real support for apprenticeships.
The Green Party would ensure education as a human right, giving everyone the opportunity to better themselves and increase their understanding of the world and each other.
We’d bring back free higher education and abolish student loans, returning to a grant system and cancelling all outstanding student debt. Education should be available to everyone on the basis of ability, not their bank balances or their willingness to take a crippling debt of up to £45,000 into later life.
Academies and Grammar Schools
Forcing schools to opt out of local government leadership to become Free Schools and Academies under the guise of independence and local control is wrong in my opinion. It is a move to wrest control by central government and schools have been bribed by the extra funding initially available to them if they opt out of democratic County Council control. The Conservatives are now insisting than any new school should be runs under one of these schemes.
There have been many examples of schools who previously were awarded Excellent or Good OFSTED reports who have recently been “failed” in order to force them to accept Academy status. Academies and Free Schools can appoint untrained, unqualified staff to teach our children! Some Free Schools have come under severe criticism for failing their pupils yet are still allowed to operate as they are not required to follow the National Curriculum.
Schools now impose entrance criteria with some achieving excellent results but with others less fortunate in their catchment areas becoming “sink” schools. The better off move house in order to be in their chosen school’s catchment area. In one area parents have been reduced to accepting 13th choice of school because of demand.
Teachers are prevented from inspiring and motivating their students by the straight jacket of a centrally imposed curriculum and precious time is spent on prescribed learning that can be tested. There is no longer time in a hectic school day for individual, personal development through the arts or sport. Empty talk of the Olympic inheritance is replaced by schools selling off sports fields to raise cash for much needed teaching blocks.
Secondary schools now have to provide between 8 and 12 subjects for GCSE with an increasing dependence on exam results rather than course work – deterring large numbers of teenagers from achieving. We would free teachers from a focus on targets, league tables and form filling, and allow them to teach. We’d give parents a greater role in monitoring and maintaining standards in schools.
The Green Party offers radical alternatives including:
Ensuring schools promote social and emotional well being, equality, inclusion and responsibility. They need more freedom to frame the curriculum around the needs and interests of the young people in their school.
There should be an emphasis on pupil-centred learning catering for different learning styles, interests and needs. Inspections should recognise the “added value” achieved by schools bearing in mind the catchment area of each school.
We also need to invest much more in special schools and support for children and young people with special education and disability needs. This is a sector that is under increasing pressure and something that the government has consistently under-funded for over a decade.