Need-to-know:​ Election manifestos – what do they say about education?

25 November 2019

As the 2019 election draws closer, here are the key education points of the party manifestos, so you can see who is promising what for your school.

We’re focusing on education pledges in this article – and specifically how these would affect schools and colleges, rather than related issues like higher education, adult learning or social care.


The Conservative Party manifesto includes some funding pledges that have been previously announced, but also some new proposals.


  • £14-billion increase in school funding*, including a minimum per-pupil funding rate of:
    • £5,000 for secondary schools
    • £4,000 for primary schools
    • £780 million in new funding to support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
  • Investing in arts, music and sport, including an ‘arts premium’ for secondary schools and investment in primary school PE teaching

*There’s more here on how the Department for Education (DfE) said this funding would be allocated before the 12 December election was announced. If followed, the secondary per-pupil funding would come in next year, but the primary amount wouldn’t come in until 2021/22.

Recruitment, pay and conditions

  • Increasing the teacher starting salary to £30,000

School organisation

  • Creating more “great schools”, and specifically, more free schools
  • Expanding alternative provision schools
  • Creating more school places for pupils with complex SEND
  • Making sure parents can choose the school that best suits their children


  • Intervening in schools where there’s “entrenched underperformance”
  • Continuing with Ofsted inspections (which both Labour and the Liberal Democrats want to replace – see below)

No-notice inspections on the cards?

Since the manifesto release, Boris Johnson has made further pledges on the Conservatives’ plans for Ofsted inspection, including:

    • ‘No-notice’ inspection trials
    • Longer inspections for secondary and large primary schools (3 days rather than the current 2)
    • £10 million extra funding for Ofsted


  • “Backing” headteachers and teachers on discipline
  • Expanding the programme to help schools with bad behaviour learn from those with good behaviour (it’s unclear if the manifesto is referring to this programme due to launch in September 2020, and whether the “expansion” refers to the roll out of the policy itself or a further expansion of current proposals)
  • Continuing to help teachers tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying
  • Introducing new laws to require schools to work with police, councils and health authorities to prevent serious crime (this is in the crime section, rather than the schools section)


As in 2017, Labour is proposing a National Education Service, to provide “free education for everyone throughout their lives”. Here’s what they’ve set out for schools:


  • Introducing a “fairer funding formula”
  • Funding more non-contact time for teachers
  • Providing more funding for children with SEND
  • “Sustainable, long-term funding” for maintained nursery schools
  • An arts pupil premium to fund arts education for every primary school child
  • Aligning the base rate of per-pupil funding in post-16 education with Key Stage (KS) 4
  • Dedicated capital funding to expand post-16 provision

Curriculum, testing and accountability

  • Removing KS1 and KS2 SATs and baseline assessments (these are being piloted in 2019/20 and are due to be implemented in 2020/21 under current plans), to refocus assessment on supporting pupil progress
  • Reviewing the curriculum and making sure it covers subjects such as black history, and that it (continues to cover) issues like the Holocaust and the science of climate change
  • Replacing Ofsted with a new body designed to “drive school improvement”
  • Addressing ‘off-rolling’ by making schools accountable for the outcomes of pupils who leave their rolls (the government also agreed to this following the Timpson review of school exclusion, but hasn’t consulted on how to deliver this reform yet)
  • Reforming existing careers advice toward an integrated system covering the whole National Education Service

School organisation

  • Bringing free schools and academies back under control of parents, teachers and local communities, with:
    • Budget and day-to-day decisions transferred back to schools, overseen by an “accountable governing body with elected representatives” (parent trustees in academies are elected if there are more applicants than places, though members of the trust usually have the power to appoint trustees in accordance with their own articles of association. Academy trusts are currently accountable to the ESFA)
    • The local authority (LA) being responsible for delivering “education and support for young people” – managing admissions and school places, and having the power to open new schools (LAs currently administrate admissions and oversee places, and technically there are some limited circumstances under which LAs can open new maintained schools. But in practice, the government currently expects most new schools to be opened as free schools)
    • Regional offices of the National Education Service to oversee and co-ordinate things like continuous, peer-to-peer school improvement
    • All schools to be subject to a “common rulebook” underpinned by legislation
  • Reforming alternative provision to ensure “an excellent education is the right of every child”
  • Close tax loopholes for “elite” private schools (it’s unclear if this means all private schools)
  • Asking the Social Justice Commission (which Labour would set up to replace the Social Mobility Commission) to advise on integrating private schools into the state sector

Recruitment, pay and conditions

  • Year-on-year public sector pay rises above the rate of inflation, starting with a 5% increase, to restore public sector pay “to at least pre-financial crisis levels in real terms” (this is in the manifesto section on public sector funding, and we’re assuming it’ll cover education workers in the public sector)
  • Maximum class sizes of 30 for all primary school children (currently this only applies to reception and KS1)
  • A new teacher supply service
  • Bringing back the School Support Staff Negotiating Body and national pay settlements for teachers
  • Recruiting 150,000 additional early years staff and introducing a national pay scale
  • Free training for early years workers to attain graduate-level qualifications on the job, as part of a transition to a “graduate-led workforce” for the early years

An increase in teacher numbers

    • In addition to the manifesto pledges, Labour have since announced a promise to recruit nearly 20,000 more teachers, and train the 25,000 unqualified staff currently teaching, by 2023/24. 
    • The announcement also includes a £7 billion fund for building repairs and safety upgrades, and increased spending on the pupil premium.

Pupil wellbeing

  • Extending free school meals for all primary school children
  • Reducing the cost of school uniforms

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto places education quite high up – it’s the third section after ‘stop Brexit’ and ‘our plan for a stronger economy’. Here’s what they’ve said:



  • Reversing school funding cuts with an “emergency cash injection” so schools can employ an extra 20,000 teachers and reduce class sizes to 2015 levels (the 2015 average class sizes were 27 pupils per class for state-funded primary schools and 20.1 for secondary – in 2019, it was 27.1 for primary and 21.7 for secondary, according to DfE data)
  • Allocating more money to LAs to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost a child’s education, health and care plan
  • ‘young people’s premium’ to encourage those eligible for the pupil premium to stay in education and training beyond 16 (where the young person would directly receive some of that funding)
  • Increasing the early years pupil premium to £1,000 per year (it’s currently £302 per year at the most)
  • Investment to “clear the backlog of repairs” to school and college buildings

Curriculum, testing and accountability

  • A “curriculum for life” in all state-funded schools, covering things like personal, social , health and economic (PSHE) education, financial literacy, environmental awareness, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health, and responsible use of social media. An independent body of education experts would oversee any future curriculum changes (based on “up-to-date educational evidence”)
  • Replacing SATs with a formal, moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase – and some “lighter-touch” testing
  • Replacing existing performance tables with a broader set of indicators (still covering academic attainment but also including pupil and teacher wellbeing)
  • Replacing Ofsted with an ‘HM inspector of schools’, with inspections taking place every 3 years and considering factors including social and emotional development and pupil/staff wellbeing. Independent schools would be subject to the same inspection regime (some are currently inspected by Ofsted, but not all)
  • Removing the EBacc measure to protect the arts and creative subjects in the curriculum

School organisation

  • Requiring multi-academy trusts to undergo external inspection (it’s not clear if this would be the same new inspectorate mentioned above, or a different body)
  • Allowing LAs to open new community schools, and devolve all capital funding for new school spaces to LAs (it’s unclear if this would mean an end to the free school programme)
  • Opposing any future expansion of grammar schools
  • Have LAs act as “strategic education authorities” for their area, with responsibility for places planning and admissions, exclusions and SEND functions (LAs are currently responsible for administering admissions and SEND, and for arranging education for excluded pupils)

Teacher pay and conditions

  • Increasing the teacher starting salary to £30,000
  • Increasing teacher pay by at least 3% per year throughout the parliament
  • An entitlement to high-quality professional development for all teachers, to rise to 50 hours per year by 2025
  • Extra training for teachers required to teach a subject at secondary level in which they don’t have a post A-level qualification

Pupil wellbeing

  • Extending free school meals to all primary school children, and to all secondary school children whose families receive universal credit (currently secondary pupils are eligible if their family receives universal credit but the household income must be less than £7,400 per year after tax)
  • Making sure all teaching staff have training to identify mental health issues, that schools provide “immediate access” for pupil support and counselling and that there’s a person responsible for mental health in schools
  • Implementing a statutory duty for schools to “promote the wellbeing of their pupils” as part of inspection
  • Requiring school uniform policies that are gender neutral and flexible enough to suit different budgets – and provide training for staff on how to review their uniform policies
  • Challenging “gender stereotyping and early sexualisation”, promoting positive body image and breaking down perceptions of gender appropriateness for particular academic subjects


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