From primary school to sixth form college, Conservative cuts and austerity have left our classrooms underfunded and underperforming.
Here’s five of the Green Party’s big ideas on fixing our education system.
1. An end to exam factories
From our first years of school right up until our final tests that determine university futures, our schools have become exam factories.
It starts with SATs in years two and six. Children as young as six have to sit high-pressure tests when evidence shows that teacher assessment is just as accurate (and far less stressful). It's not fair that schools and teachers are measured by such narrowly focused tests. It's time for SATs to get the sack.
The focus on exams worsens through school life. Nearly any sixth-former will tell you that the new linear A-Level system, which means that two years of learning come down to a handful of intense exams, is restrictive and stressful, and can result in a bad day or a short bout of bad mental health decimating a teenager’s life prospects
Greens would return to a modular system that sees students take some A-Level exams in the first year, and allow them to resit the following year if need be. This allows for a more diverse curriculum: students would have a choice of many subjects, and could easily drop one of their subjects in the first year while still gaining an AS qualification.
2. No more Ofsted
Teachers nationwide have suffered at the heel of austerity and decimated school budgets. Wages have stagnated, resources have been stripped away, and workload has risen thanks to staffing cuts and more rigorous testing. We can barely expect our teachers to educate well when the system forces them to focus on assessment and thinly defined ‘progress’.
We’d let teachers do what we think they do best: teach. We’d abolish Ofsted, and replace it with locally-led continuous and collaborative evaluation.
3. Equal and accessible schools
The Green Party believes schooling should be free and accessible to everyone. We’d ditch the current confusing and unequal mix of schools – from academy to grammar – and return schools to the hands of local authorities. Teachers, parents, government and community members should be shaping our schools – not private companies based in different parts of the country.
Private schools would no longer be allowed to escape tax with charitable status. We’d bring the Education Maintenance Allowance back to England, which, until its scrapping by the Coalition in 2010, supported teens from low-income backgrounds through further education. The fund is still available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
4. No class before six
Young children need the space to develop beyond just academia and the first seven years of life are crucial to development. In those early years, play and environmental exploration can be more valuable to an individual than academic activity.
The Green Party would ensure that children aren’t forced into academic learning until age six – two years later than now. Instead, early years education would be extended, with a focus on play-based learning and access to nature. Sweden has hugely benefited from using a similar system.
5. Mandatory and progressive LGBTIQA+ inclusive RSE
We believe that people of all sexualities and gender identities should be represented in relationship and sex education (RSE). The regressive debate over ‘age-appropriateness’, too often used as a smokescreen for homophobia, needs crushing. We’d provide mandatory LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex education for all ages, healthy relationships education, and make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) mandatory. Students of all sexualities and genders should grow up seeing their identities reflected and accepted in school.