After years of belt-tightening, school leaders and teachers have been lobbying for investment in the nation’s schools, and it now seems that politicians are responding.
Per pupil spending in England has dropped by 8% in real terms since 2010, fuelled by a number of factors including the increasing cost of pay, pensions and national insurance contributions.
As the General Election campaign ramps up a gear and the political parties prepare to launch their manifestos, it is likely that many will be flashing the cash.
– What are the Conservatives’ plans?
With their manifesto yet to be published, the detail is not yet known.
However, in a blaze of publicity, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in August a three-year plan to increase school spending by £7.1 billion by 2022/23.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a respected economic think tank, has said the investment returns school funding to 2009/10 levels.
The Government has announced proposals to raise starting salaries for teachers to £30,000 by 2022/23.
The Conservatives are also focusing on discipline and standards in the classroom.
– And how about Labour?
Again, Labour’s manifesto has not yet been published, but it is expected that there will be some announcement on cash for schools.
The party has been clear that it wants to create a “cradle-to-grave” national education service, and has already pledged that every adult will be entitled to six years of free study.
Other policies already announced include plans to offer 30 hours of free childcare to all two to four-year-olds, to open new Sure Start children’s centres, to cut class sizes for five to seven-year-olds, to scrap primary school Sats tests and give primary school children free school dinners.
Labour also plans to scrap university tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants.
– Wasn’t there a plan for Labour to abolish private schools?
At its conference in September, Labour passed a resolution which put forward sweeping plans to overhaul private education and “integrate” fee-paying schools into the state sector.
The motion covered a proposal to withdraw charitable status and “all other public subsidies and tax privileges”, including business rates exemption.
Properties and investment held by private schools would be “redistributed democratically and fairly” across the country’s educational institutions as part of the reforms.
The move was immediately met with outrage from private school leaders, who have vowed to fight any such move.
It is not yet known if these proposals have indeed become part of Labour’s election manifesto.
– Where do the Lib Dems stand?
The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto includes a pledge that by 2024/25, £10.6 billion more will be spent on schools than in 2019/20.
This money will help to boost teacher numbers by 20,000 over five years, the party says.
Teachers are a key focus of the Lib Dems’ education plans, with pledges to increase starting salaries to £30,000 and guaranteeing pay rises over at least 3% a year over the next parliament.
The party also says it will invest in professional development for teachers, support for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities and put £7 billion into building classrooms over a five-year period.
– So do these pledges match what school leaders want?
The Association of School and College Leaders has warned politicians against using education as a “political football” in the General Election campaign.
Instead, it is calling on politicians of all parties to focus on issues such as funding, reforms to the exams system, and teacher recruitment and retention.
– And what do teachers say?
Unsurprisingly, funding is also an issue for teachers.
The National Education Union, which represents a significant proportion of the workforce, argues that more investment is needed, quickly.
It also wants to see politicians commit to measures to reform areas such as Sats tests, Ofsted, workload and pay.
– Do the parties’ pledges on education apply to the whole of the UK?
Education is a devolved area, so most of the pledges made by the parties on schools will apply to England only.