EPI analysis: What GE2017 manifesto plans mean for education

In advance of the 2017 General Election, which will take place June 8, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published an impartial assessment of the English education policies of the main UK political parties. The following is a summary featured on the Education Policy Institute (EPI) site. You can read the report in full here

This analysis considers the extent to which each of the parties address some of the key challenges facing education today, as well as whether their policies appear to be based on credible evidence of likely impact. Where possible, we have compared each party’s spending commitments with our own estimates of likely costs. We have not attempted to analyse in any detail the credibility of the revenue assumptions which underlie the education spending commitments, unless these involve a transfer from within the education budget.

You can read the report in full here

In the Conservative Party Manifesto, we conclude that the policies which are likely to have a beneficial impact on education outcomes include:

  • A proposed early years capital funding pot to help primary schools develop nurseries;
  • Plans for a baseline assessment to help properly measure progress and school performance;
  • Introducing a National Funding Formula in which no schools would lose funding;
  • A commitment to review schools’ admissions policies; and
  • A review of the funding of tertiary education.

However, we have also identified several areas of concern in the Conservative manifesto, where available evidence suggests that policy proposals are not well based in evidence or could harm outcomes, including:

  • A real terms cut in per-pupil funding of around three per cent over the course of the Parliament which would bring funding to below 2015-16 levels without an indication of how these savings would be made, combined with ongoing planned real terms pay reductions for teachers which could worsen retention and recruitment problems;
  • No clear estimate of how much some new policies would cost and whether these costs would be found from within, or in addition, to the extra £4bn committed to investing in schools over the next Parliament;
  • A lack of evidence for the proposed focus on ‘Ordinary Working Families’, whose attainment levels are above average, combined with some policies likely to adversely impact on this group (e.g. withdrawal of infant free school meals);
  • A commitment to remove the ban on grammar schools, despite evidence showing that the policy risks worsening social mobility and is unlikely to raise overall standards;
  • No mention of supporting pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

In the Labour Party Manifesto, we conclude that the policies which are likely to have a beneficial impact on education outcomes include:

  • A planned real terms per pupil increase in school funding of around six per cent over the next parliament, including additional money to remove the public sector pay cap for teachers, which will help teacher retention and recruitment compared with a scenario of continued real pay declines.
  • Introducing a National Funding Formula in which no schools would lose funding;
  • Parity of funding for 16-18 year-olds which would put them on a more equal footing with 11-16 year-old pupils;
  • A pledge for a new SEND strategy, to help vulnerable learners, combined with extra resources to tackle mental health issues in schools; and
  • Some planned steps to raise the quality of early years education.
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However, we have also identified several areas of concern in the Labour manifesto, where available evidence suggests that policy proposals are not well based in evidence or could harm outcomes, including:

  • No clear strategy to improve capacity in the early years to deliver an expensive increase in provision which could therefore deliver only modest impacts on attainment;
  • A risk that the pledge to enforce infant class sizes at 30 or fewer could either result in significant capital costs or compromise parental choice, without clear benefits for attainment;
  • The huge proposed cost of abolishing tuition fees – Labour’s largest manifesto pledge – badly targets some of the country’s most significant educational challenges.
  • The opposition to a baseline assessment, which may risk development of a more rational accountability system for schools.
  • Significant funding risks linked to revenue raising assumptions, around higher income tax rates for top earners and significantly higher corporation tax yields.

In the Liberal Democrat Party Manifesto, we conclude that the policies which are likely to have a beneficial impact on education outcomes include:

  • Increasing the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000 per eligible child, per year, to seek to narrow the significant attainment gap which emerges before school;
  • Introducing a National Funding Formula in which no schools would lose funding;
  • A pledge to remove the one per cent teacher pay cap, which along with protected real per pupil spending should help with the recruitment and retention of teachers; and
  • Plans for earlier identification and support of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

However, we have also identified several areas of concern in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, where available evidence suggests that policy proposals are not well based in evidence or could harm outcomes, including:

  • The risk that large expenditure on the early years free hours policy will fail to deliver any significant attainment gains without stronger and affordable measures to raise quality.
  • The 2020 target for continuing professional development for teachers represents fewer hours of CPD than in 2013;
  • Policy plans are reliant on higher government borrowing, which might be risky if the economy weakens.
  • A lack of clarity over the future of school improvement drivers in a part academy and part maintained school system.

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