Launch of 2024 Election Manifestos

Throughout the week the main political parties have launched their election manifestos, with a range of pledges for education, the arts and workplace issues. The Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Labour and Plaid Cymru have all launched papers this week. the Scottish Nationalist Party have yet to publish a full manifesto, but have made a number of policy announcements.

Education features in the pledges made by all parties, but with varying emphasis and detail. Equity and workforce reform are key areas of interest, for NSEAD members, along with teacher pay, workload and curriculum reform. Of the six manifestos published, only the Liberal Democrats and Labour make specific reference to arts, culture and creative education

The Conservative party largely reiterate existing policies and the successes for education whilst in office. Their manifesto does not address curriculum reform, and there is no mention of specialist subjects or the creative arts. They maintain their commitment to qualification reform at 16-18 through the proposed ‘Advanced British Standard’ and the merging of ‘T’ and ‘A’ levels. They make no promises on teacher pay, other than for new teachers in priority areas and key STEM and technical subjects who will receive bonuses of up to £30,000 tax-free over five years.This will exclude our members and all those teaching non STEM and technical subjects. They state their ongoing commitment to Ofsted, and  support for existing clear communication of judgements (one word grades).

New polices include the expansion of SEND provision with new special free schools. For Higher education, the Conservatives will fund new apprenticeships by the closure of HE courses that have worst outcomes. A concern for NSEAD members as this potentially hits those courses and institutions serving less advantaged, who may not achieve at same level as those serving most advantaged. Likewise, dropout rates are affected by student finances, caring responsibilities etc., issues that disproportionately affect more disadvantaged. It is not clear how ‘worse off than if they had not gone to university will be measured’. Is this an attack on those courses that do not score highly on LEO metrics – shown to be a flawed measure of earnings and outcomes.

Eye catching policies that will no doubt be of interest to young people are the introduction of National Service for 18-year-olds and the banning of mobile phone use on school premises.

Labour led on a pledge to recruit an additional 6,500 new expert teachers. It is not clear if ‘expert’ means ‘specialist’, but they focus on teachers for shortage subjects, and areas that face recruitment challenges. This would include art and design teachers, for whom recruitment is at a record low. The Labour manifesto pledges a review of the way bursaries are allocated, and the structure of retention payments, which is potentially good news for NSEAD members. They have also highlighted the importance of ensuring that teachers stay up to date on best practice with continuing professional development and promise to Introduce a new Teacher Training Entitlement and to Review the Early career framework. 

Of key importance for NSEAD members is the promise to launch an expert-led review of curriculum and assessment, with a commitment to rich, broad, inclusive curriculum and development of creative skills. The importance of addressing the mental health crisis amongst pupils is recognised, with the promise of resources to ensure that pupils have access to specialist mental health professionals in every school.

The Labour manifesto places emphasis on opportunity and equity in all policy areas, including arts and culture.

“With Labour, the arts and music will no longer be the preserve of a privileged few. Culture is an essential part of supporting children and young people to develop creativity and find their voice. There is huge potential for growth in the creative industries that benefit every corner of the UK.”

The Liberal Democrats also place a strong emphasis on tackling disadvantage and inequity. They clearly refer to a specialist subject teacher workforce, with commitments to pay rises for teachers, training bursaries for all, and to funding CPD (Continuing Professional Development). They pledge to instigate curriculum re-design and qualifications reform, and to include arts subjects in a retained Ebacc. Like Labour, they promise Ofsted reform and an end to single word judgements.

The Green Party manifesto presents more general headlines, with broad principles and a select number of specific education pledges. Their document commits to arts and culture in the wider community, the restoration of grants and end to tuition fees. They would look to abolish Ofsted and high stakes testing. They pledge an additional 2bn to fund teacher pay.

Plaid Cymru promise to review all bursary schemes available to incentivise teachers, to ensure they attract applicants and help to fill recruitment gaps. They make specific reference to working with the teaching unions to reduce bureaucracy and workload, and pledge to conduct a review of Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development to ascertain their relevance to the demands of the new curriculum. They pledge to take forward the full recommendations of the independently commissioned review of Vocational Qualifications in Wales.

The SNP have launched a raft of policy commitments to equity and social justice, including to establish a National Digital Academy which will allow learners to access the full higher curriculum, regardless of age, school or location, and  to close the poverty-related attainment gap by investing £1 billion over the next parliament. 

NSEAD launched a manifesto for art, craft and design education in April,. Written by art educators it sets out member priorities for the next parliament. Full details and our manifesto poster can be downloaded here. NSEAD have provided comparison tables of key policy pledges for education and workplace rights that are of particular interest to members.