A proper education is absolutely essential to allow everyone to make their way in life. A good education system benefits the economy and society as a whole, helping individuals to achieve their goals and helping society by reducing levels of crime, illiteracy and economic inactivity.
Yet at the end of 11 years of state education, an unacceptable proportion of school leavers cannot even read, write or count to a tolerable standard. Converting our children into intelligent and informed adults is a fundamental requirement and it is highly significant that 65% of our prison population consists of people who are less than thirty years old and illiterate.
It is impossible to over-emphasise the importance of high quality teachers and a well-focused curriculum yet even this vital sector has suffered from the zealous imposition of ideology and red tape. From a very early age children display diverse characteristics and different levels of ability and yet our education system is not geared to recognising or coping with these differences.
Let parents decide
The New Party will free up the provision of education and greatly increase its diversity by introducing education vouchers, as in Sweden. This will give parents more control of how their children are educated and drive up standards:
The Swedish reforms occurred in 1992, when municipalities were obliged to give 85 per cent of the calculated average cost per student in the state schools to any school of parent choice – for all students, not just some targeted groups… The introduction of choice has led to a fast expansion in the number of independent schools.
Recent research has established that competition from independent schools improves test results and final grades in state schools. The higher the proportion of students moving to independent schools, the greater the improvement in grades in state schools. (Source: Reform)
The driving force for better standards will thus be parental choice.
“The ideal would be to introduce a voucher or tax credit system to give every parent in the country a greater opportunity to choose the school that they want.”
former Chief Inspector of Schools
An open and diverse school system will encourage more post-14 alternatives, such as specialist academies for vocational skills training, sports and music. The drift from science, engineering and technology has led to a scarcity of workers in these fields. New specialist academies will address this problem and encourage pupils with particular aptitudes.
We do not believe in a return to the old, rigid 11- plus, but we do believe that grammar schools and specialist schools are an essential part of an effective, diverse and flexible school system.
We will encourage schools to link with others to maximise specialist resources. This will be particularly important in helping to integrate pupils from different backgrounds and to give pupils in disadvantaged areas opportunities they might otherwise miss out on. We will make the national curriculum flexible enough to allow genuine innovation but with more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM subjects, as well as pupils’ essential reading and writing skills. Increasing private sector involvement and reducing state bureaucracy will have the added bonus of attracting many teachers, who have taken early retirement, to return to their profession. Teacher training will be transferred entirely to universities, as in Scotland, and will be based on proven methods rather than the fashionable theories from the 1960s and 1970s that have failed our children so badly.