DUP-Tory government: What would it mean for education?

CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Independent

The DUP is very much pro grammar, and schools in Northern Ireland are intrinsically selective – with a structure that’s closer to the pre-Blair system that was long the standard in the rest of the UK, the Independent reports.

But the Conservative Party is left in such a weak position that, even if they form a government with the DUP, ministers will in no way be able to push forward with the much contested selective school proposals outlaid in their election manifesto.

Only seven Conservative ministers need to oppose such a bill, and we know there are around 15 who are outspokenly opposed to grammar schools specifically.

As a source close to Number 10 reportedly put it to Tes early on Friday morning, grammar school plans are “f***ed” – something that will come as a relief to campaigners who have voiced opposition over Theresa May’s plans for months.

The minority result may also have come as a blow to New Schools Network head and free schools advocate, Toby Young, who has championed Theresa May’s plans to build at least 100 new free schools – including selective grammars – each year.

Everyone can more or less agree that new school places are needed – especially given the forecasted population increase – and this has been Mr Young’s strongest argument in favour of free schools expansion.

“Free schools are more popular with parents than council-run schools, more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted and get better results”

But they remain something of a contentious issue, with some arguing free schools are too costly and unaccountable, receiving huge budgets while local authority schools are neglected.

As director of NSN, Mr Young was tasked with helping to deliver the new free schools, which are autonomous from local authority.

Speaking to The Independent, he remained positive the plans would go through, stating that the free schools programme remains the main delivery mechanism for much needed school places, regardless of the stance on grammars.

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“It remains to be seen what impact the election result will have on individual education policies, but I expect the free schools programme to continue,” he said.

“Free schools are more popular with parents than council-run schools, more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted and get better results. They also remain the most cost effective way of providing much-needed new school places.”

Home secretary Amber Rudd admitted that a Conservative government would not increase per pupil funding in England

Responding to the outcome on Friday morning, Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “The Conservative party was hugely divided over grammar schools.

“The initiative for them came directly from Theresa May and her advisor Nick Timothy – perhaps only introduced in a misguided attempt to gain voters from Ukip.

“This policy can’t possibly survive this calamitous election. Government education policy now needs to urgently concentrate on and address school funding cuts.”

Schools are already facing very real and immediate consequences as a result of the squeeze on school funding.

We’ve heard and read stories about schools closing half an hour early to save money, parents being sent begging letters asking for donations, and teachers buying art materials and textbooks using money from their own pocket.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in the run-up to election day, home secretary Amber Rudd admitted that a Conservative government would not increase per pupil funding in England – a disclosure union leaders said confirmed their worst fears.

The future of school funding now hangs in the air: Voters have undoubtedly reacted against the Conservative’s real terms cuts of seven per cent per pupil, as well as the much criticised plans to scrap universal free lunches for infants.

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