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Labour announces National Education Service to fund schools, colleges and university grants

Yesterday Labour announced a raft of pledges related to education, from primary schools to adult learning and covering just about everything in-between. Stating his intention to deliver a National Education Service, Jeremy Corbyn unveiled a set of policies that would begin to restore much of the funding lost under the Conservatives over the last seven years.

Jeremy Corbyn was joined in Leeds by Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary to announce the proposals. 

Labour’s key education pledges are:

  • Stop the cuts to school budgets with a real terms increase in funding.
  • Reduce class sizes to under 30 for all five, six and seven year olds.
  • Free school meals for all primary school children.
  • Restore education maintenance allowance for college students.
  • Restore student grants for university students.
  • Scrap fees on courses for adult learners looking to re-train or upskill

The proposals were welcomed by NUS Deputy President Shelly Asquith, who tweeted, “Students have been crying out for what @AngelaRayner announced today.”

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

“Parents and teachers will strongly welcome the fact that the Labour Party has grasped the enormity of the problem schools and colleges face through drastic real terms cuts to their budgets.

 

Labour are intending to increase funding to English schools by £4.8bn per year by 2021-22, alongside £8.4bn in capital investment to ensure schools have enough places to reduce class sizes. They also propose to increase the adult skills budget by £1.5 billion by the end of the parliament in order to abolish upfront fees and increase course funding by an average of 10 per cent year on year.

The Party had already announced that they would introduce free school meals for all primary schools children, paid for with £700m from ending the VAT exemption that private schools currently enjoy.

With the exception of universal free school meals funded by applying VAT to private schools, the policies are to be funded through a restoration of the higher Corporation Tax rate that the Conservatives have gradually lowered since 2010. This will be done by raising corporation tax from 19% to 21% by 2019, and to 26% by 2021, still leaving the UK with the lowest Corporation Tax rate in the G7. This is also in line with the thinking of Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who said Labour would be able to fund its school funding plans through a hike in Corporation Tax to 21%.

In a press release, Labour argue their costing is backed up by calculations from the Treasury and OBR:

“According to Treasury and Office for Budget Responsibility figures, the Tories’ tax giveaways are costing the exchequer £65.2 billion over the four years from 2018-19 to 2021-22, including £19.4 billion in the last year of the parliament. This contrasts with £46.8 billion based on the forecasts when the cuts were introduced.”

One lingering question mark is whether Labour will pledge to end tuition fees, a policy that Jeremy Corbyn stood on in both his leadership elections, and is supported by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. In 2015 Ed Miliband’s Labour manifesto included a pledge to reduce fees from £9,000 to £6,000. Many universities now charge £9,250 after reforms this year allowed them to raise fees in line with inflation.

 

7 Comments

  1. Steven Johnston says:

    Great news! Now if I was businessman, or woman, I’d support this. Why would I not, as who would complain about this? A workforce that receives a good education would benefit industry in the UK and make them more competitive.

  2. Imran Khan says:

    Rubbish article. The workforce already receives a grounding in all of the basic skills. What is lacking are the tools to go out in the market place and compete with Eastern Europeans.

    From the eighties forwards, Labour continued what the Tories started with YOPS schemes. Totally fake courses which in London where funded and run by Ken Livingstone removed young unemployed people from the unemployment figures and into spurious training schemes.

    This is now why we have thousands of young people with ” degrees” in media studies working for the minimum wage and a shortage of all skilled building workers. Disgusting, as is this proposal.

    1. James Martin says:

      Now what of the actual reality. Under the Tories education budgets have been squeezed while they tell lies such as it has been ring-fenced and protected. Not true, only 5-16 education was protected (although not any more and real terms cuts are starting to bite hard), but pre-school nursery and Sure Start centers were culled (which means that kids with serious problems don’t get picked up early enough), post 16 has been battered, 6th form and FE colleges have been and continue to make massive cuts and redundancies and courses are disappearing fast. These include huge amounts of adult orientated courses and practical ones such building trade skills which once were common in FE colleges but now are virtually gone. Get made redundant in your 30s and 40s and want to re-train in another trade? Once you could do that, but the Tories have stopped it dead and ensured a lifetime on the scarp heap for many older workers. It is working class people that have been hit hardest by this of course, the more wealthy still have opportunities to go to university but the numbers of working class kids doing so is now virtually non-existent.

      But funding aside, we also have disintegration of the education system. Colleges continue to move further awy from schools (once they were all in the same LEA’s of course, when we still had LEA’s), academies and free schools fragment the system, make a mess of place allocation and the lack of local democratic oversight is leading to massive issues of financial issues and hands in the till.

      And what is the Tory response? More fragmentation, more free schools and the return to grammars. At the same time most of the UTC’s (technical colleges for vocational and work related education for 14-19 year olds)) that started under the last Labour government are now closing or have already done so because actually the Tories don’t give a stuff about working class kids learning a trade so long as they can allow middle class ones to go to a grammar school – and that is what is actually disgusting.

      1. Imran Khan says:

        The rot started under the Tories in the early eighties and has continued ever since. The old Technical Colleges that taught practical trades became colleges of technology with courses in subjects that while they were easy to teach and looked good on the college’s CV had no practical application.

        To train a bricklayer or carpenter takes up a lot of room and years of time. The space ten bricklayers take up can accommodate fifty computer screens that will churn out fifty diplomas in six months.

        The problem was also that there was a tendency to see manual work as of less worth than that of a building worker or a mechanic. The skills that a computer operator had ten years ago are now totally obsolete with new technology emerging on an almost daily basis.

        Yet we are surrounded by bricks in almost every building we can see and a massive housing shortage. It’s a no brainer.

        1. James Martin says:

          I don’t disagree, and the obsession with kids going to universities as the main success criteria in education for governments over decades has been highly damaging, both for academic working class kids who can’t afford to go and for kids from more wealthy households who face family and peer pressure to go but who would rather do something else entirely. It has also been damaging for British manufacturing of course.

          I would hope that the idea of a joined up national education service can start to sort that out and bring about a better balance between academic and vocational education and skills. It was a big mistake to move from polytechnics to these colleges being called ‘universities’ and trying to copy the leading academic uni’s and in the process often dumping or reducing their vocational offer that made them so special to begin with. We also need to support more apprenticeships and to put them on the same post-16 or post-19 level as higher education when it comes to careers advice within schools.

          Ideally these sorts of things should be the subject of political consensus rather than party difference, but it is hard to see how that can happen until the Tories stop their obsession with grammars and fragmenting and semi-privatising state education in England via academies and free schools.

  3. James Martin says:

    Easy way to email all your local candidates for June 8th asking that they commit to further cuts to school budgets at the School Cuts website: http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk/#!/email-your-candidates

  4. Bazza says:

    Excellent stuff and we need an education system which nurtures the critical thinking and compassionate citizens of tomorrow.
    Our central education policy must be the elimination of poverty, if kids feel happy and secure then young human beings will have every chance to learn stuff.
    It could be argued that the Tories need a narrow education system which perpetuates and attempts to expand the power of the elite.
    They train the future elite to be callous to the poor and workiing people to maintain their power but their weakness (and their standards are falling) I would argue is that they are nurturing a cadre of restricted political thinkers captured by Neo-Liberalism.
    For example as Streeck suggests (New Left Review) quantitative easing is buying them time because they as they haven’t a clue what to do.
    But we know what to do for the UK and globally.
    INTERREGNUM
    X & Solidarity!

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