Education

A good education system is vital to prepare our young people for the future, and vital for the future prosperity of the country as a whole. So why is it that we are unable to get it right?

In much of the country we have a system of comprehensive schools which are - supposedly - non-selective. But is this true? Comprehensives are in fact very often 'selective' by the back door, in that in many areas the schools that have a good reputation attract relatively affluent families who buy properties in the area. In other words, the selection process is by income and wealth, not ability.

This leads to the problem of 'sink' schools - still nominally comprehensives, but defined largely by the conditions of the area, reflected in poor housing, high unemployment and low incomes.

Why do we allow this hypocrisy of so-called ‘non-selection’ to continue? And why is the school curriculum geared towards the skills needed for university entrance, when fewer than half of all school leavers go to university?

Of course, university education presents its own problems. Those entering university do not always have long-term career plans set out and all too often take the courses that happen to be available. This means that we have large shortages of some types of graduate and huge surpluses of others - hardly good for the country or for the students themselves.

There are other ways of doing things. We could, for example, award university places through targeted scholarships that open up more opportunities in those disciplines that we desperately need. We could also reform the university year and the balance between teaching and research to improve opportunities. But in order to do these things, we have to get out of the mindset that sees university education as simply a question of how much is paid by government and how much is paid by the student.

The New Party is committed to a rigorous, high quality education system that develops real skills to meet the demands that students will face in the outside world. If we want to meet the needs of our students and the wider society, we need to find ways of providing the most appropriate education and training for all.