Tag Archives: education

Lord Wallace of Saltaire writes….Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

photo by: flickingerbrad
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Nick Clegg and the woodland craft class

Ease yourself gently into Sunday with this video of Nick Clegg helping Oxfordshire schoolchildren with their woodland craft class. He was there on Thursday with Oxford West and Abingdon candidate Layla Moran ahead of the manifesto front page launch.

Ok, so there’s no hard policy, but it’s pleasant and the kids seem to know quite a lot about him.

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Liberal Democrats publish their election manifesto front page

Manifesto_Covers_2015The Liberal Democrats are today launching the front page of their General Election manifesto. The front-page will set out the five Liberal Democrat priorities for forming a government after May 7th. The Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats will also today unveil their manifesto priorities, including greater devolution of power to Scotland and Wales. Nick Clegg will launch the campaign on a visit to a primary school in the Conservative-held constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon.

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Nick Clegg pledges to end illiteracy by 2025 by ensuring every child leaves Primary School able to read

Nick Clegg has unveiled a key manifesto commitment for the Liberal Democrats this morning:

The plans mean that every child born in 2014, who will leave primary school in 2025 will be able to read and write at a standard identified to lead to success in secondary school and beyond.

Nick Clegg explained why this is so important to Liberal Democrats:

I am proud of the scale of our ambition. We are raising the bar on what children should be able to achieve by the age of eleven and want all children to get over the bar by 2025.

The Coalition Government has

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Lord Dominic Addington writes…Disabled students must have an equal shot at life

Last week I asked a question in the Lords on the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). The DSA allows those with a disability, a long term health condition, or dyslexia (like myself) an equal shot at higher education. The support people receive through this allowance can be vital in ensuring a student’s chances of academic success aren’t dictated by their disability or health, but by their effort and ability.

Like all areas of Government spending, the DSA is being examined for potential savings and to make sure money is going where it is needed most.  However, my question in the Lords was inspired by the amount of confusion there is within all the groups involved in the DSA, ranging from suppliers to students, over what exactly is going to be in place once these reforms go through.

At the moment there is a great deal of fear mongering about not having sufficient resources to enable people to be able to complete their course, let alone work independently as you’re supposed to in higher education. Any change that does not embrace this principle is effectively excluding certain groups unnecessarily.

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The place to go for all things Education – LDEA’s new website

If you are a parliamentary or council candidate and you want to find out more about Lib Dem education priorities and 2015 manifesto policies, you can now go to the shiny new Liberal Democrat Education Association (LDEA) website.

Whilst we have achieved a lot in this government including £2.5billion of pupil premium, free school meals for infants, a new progress-based measure to replace the A*-C metric and our programme for 2-year olds, many challenges remain. Teacher morale is low, mainly as a result of the Govian years of a lack of trust and respect for the profession coupled with a target-driven, data-led culture which has increased workload substantially. Although standards have risen in some areas, provision in many rural areas and seaside towns is poor. A punitive approach by Ofsted has made the role of headteacher even more demanding and contributes to recruitment challenges for senior positions. Education funding remains under threat, with neither the Tories nor Labour committing to protect the schools budget.

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LibLink: David Laws – Tories will cut schools spending by a quarter

Writing in today’s Telegraph, David Laws says that Tory plans will mean huge cuts to spending on schools:

The Conservatives are offering unfunded tax cuts, meaning they will have to go on making deep cuts to public spending – by far more than is necessary to balance the books.

This would be a huge threat to all we are achieving on education.

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A longer read for the weekend… David Laws on ‘Education: Lessons from this parliament and directions for the next’

david laws centre forumDavid Laws, Lib Dem minister for schools, delivered a keynote speech at CentreForum this week, ‘Education: Lessons from this parliament and directions for the next’.

As the title suggests, it was a reflection on the Coalition’s policies, and in particular the Lib Dems’ achievements. But also a look forward to what he sees as the major educational issues and what Lib Dems should be seeking to do in the next parliament.

You can read the full text over at CentreForum’s site here. But here’s an excerpt in which David looks to the challenges of the five years to come…

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Teacher workload – a concern north and south of the border

Yesterday, Nick Clegg gave a speech to public sector workers. His specific focus was on teacher workload. Everyone thinks that teachers work short hours and have long holidays. Yet everyone who has a child actually at school will know how much effort goes in to preparing lessons. And everyone who knows a teacher knows that they spend a lot of their supposed “off-duty” time thinking of interesting lessons or, more likely these days, filling in interminable paperwork. We know that children need to be kept safe and their progress checked, but I get the feeling that the bureaucracy is overbearing and unnecessary. Let’s just give you a small example from my own experience. Every time my child sets foot outside the school we have to fill in a consent form. It’s A4. It has all sorts of medical info on it. It even asks how far they can swim unaided, a skill which is unlikely to be needed when representing the school in a maths competition or reading stories to 6 year olds in the local primary school. We can be filling in one of these forms twice a month. If it’s a mild inconvenience for us as parents, what’s it like for teachers who have maybe 30 of them to collect for each class? Why can parents not fill in a standing consent with all the info which covers the whole year?

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Berwick candidate Julie Pörksen seeks views on post-16 transport

Julie PorksenThe issue of transport so that over 16s can get to school and college is one close to Berwick Liberal Democrat PPC Julie Pörksen’s heart. She told us why earlier this Summer:

In the eighties, being a rural Northumbrian kid, I used to get the school bus to Ponteland, and just stayed on it for sixth form. Those wanting to go to college had to find their own way. Raising the age of participation and encouraging parity between a sixth form and a college education can only be a positive step for the opportunities and career and life choices for our young people.

If we are not to discriminate between 16-18 year olds in urban and rural areas across the whole country we must guarantee their rights to access free state education – and free transport is an integral part of that access.

So let’s be about action not just words – lets change the law and actually enable everyone to get on in life.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Why we must reduce teachers’ workloads

Nick Clegg has been writing for the Times Educational Supplement on the need to make sure teachers’ workloads were more manageable. He recognised that most teachers put in much more effort than they get credit for:

There’s an outdated preconception, which hasn’t quite died out, that a teacher’s working day starts at 9am and finishes at 3pm, with 12 weeks off a year to recuperate. Yet, ask anyone who actually spends their days trying to inspire and educate a classroom of children and they’ll tell you a very different story.

They’ll talk about 50 hour working weeks, the unnecessary bureaucracy they have to deal with every day, the challenges of helping children, from all different backgrounds, get the skills they need and also the rewards, like that moment when you see a young boy or girl in your care thrive.

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Opinion: Education issues at conference?

student_ipad_school - 175What are your current concerns about education policy?  Please do raise them in the comments to this post.  I’ll be meeting with the Liberal Democrats Education Association (LDEA) committee on Sunday and will be able to quote them in discussions where appropriate.

Personally I’ll be focusing on two issues at conference.  I’m very disappointed to see that my policy for reform to public sector regulation and in particular to Ofsted is not in the pre-manifesto. I’ll be attempting to ensure that is addressed at the public sector reform debate on Sunday afternoon.

photo by: flickingerbrad
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The Independent View: Free school meals is universalism at its best – all children benefit, but low-income children benefit most

school mealsSo the summer is over and it’s back to school time. But there is a silver lining to the autumnal clouds: free school meals. On their first day back at school, all infants school pupils (4 to 7 year olds) should be able to sit down to enjoy a free, nutritious meal.

This is one of the rare occasions when politics visibly touches normal family life, saving harassed parents the need to make a packed lunch and saving them money at the same time. Families will save almost £10 a week on average for every child benefiting from the policy.

Families up and down the country for years to come will benefit from the leadership of local and national politicians of all parties in helping to make this happen. From the previous government and local authorities for piloting and taking it forward at a local level, to Michael Gove for backing the idea in principle, to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for getting the Coalition to implement it. And now the Liberal Democrats have gone even further pledging to extend it to all primary school children if they are in government post-election.

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Clegg on schools, post-Gove: “We need to reset the relationship”

clegg - tardisNick Clegg has used a major interview in the TES magazine to signal a turning of the page in the Coalition Government’s relationship with teachers following the removal of Michael Gove from the Department for Education.

Clegg on Gove’s departure:

“It’s an open secret that Michael Gove and I did not agree on a number of important substantive issues … It’s an opportunity to turn a page on the somewhat acrimonious relationship that existed between the government – and the Department for Education in particular – and a number of teachers,” he said. “We need to reset the relationship. Not, I should stress, by summarily abandoning all government policy or reforms, but first and foremost by ensuring that, where there is debate and discussion between the teaching profession and government, it is conducted in a spirit and tone of mutual respect. And that we seek out every opportunity to celebrate, and not always seek to denigrate, the fantastic work that teachers do.”

Clegg on the teachers’ strikes:

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Opinion: Alice vs the System: Lessons from a lifetime of “help” from public services #2

Bubbles. White rabbit. Photo by jay turnerThis is the second article in the series about Alice and her experience of “the system.” The first can be found here. Alice didn’t legally become my sister until she was 3. Alice’s adoption was the white rabbit, I guess, that we chased for the next three years.

I was too young to fully understand the nature of the legal wrangles over her adoption. From conversations with my mum and dad, the issues were twofold. First, that as foster parents it wasn’t so easy to …

photo by:
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The Independent View: The pupil premium may be starting to deliver – but beware false dawns of the past

student_ipad_school - 175Today Ofsted deliver their verdict on the Liberal Democrats’ pupil premium policy, four years into its existence – a pledge which was on the front page of the party’s manifesto. In straitened times, this was a welcome commitment to focus limited resources on poorer children, and an explicit attempt to break the cycle of poverty.

There are positive signs that the additional resources being put in through pupil premium are being used better to improve the education of children from low income backgrounds, but not yet evidence that they are …

photo by: flickingerbrad
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Opinion: Post 16 transport: It’s time to change the law to enable everyone to get on in life

Ear buds 'n' earsFor many 16 year olds across the country the post-exam, pre-result time in the summer should be a time of freedom, working a summer job to save some money or hanging out with friends and family, sure in the knowledge that come September they will be on track to take the next steps in life.

Northumberland’s young people are facing uncertainty this summer. The previous Liberal Democrat administration at County Hall had guaranteed the right of free post-16 transport to the most suitable accessible course. This has been taken …

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Opinion: An end to OFSTED

old schoolThe dissolution of OFSTED is a policy we as Liberal Democrats need to support and implement to ensure our young students are being offered the best education possible.

I am not saying that schools shouldn’t be inspected and checked.The public needs to have confidence in the school system. Parents have the right to be informed about teachers abilities and performance. Most of all we must be able to ensure that teaching meets the needs of our children.

OFSTED for too long has been nothing but a political football. School inspections should be …

photo by: alamosbasement
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Opinion: New school curriculum

schoolsignI have recently written a couple of articles on Liberal Democrat Voice around changes to schools (here and here).  Please read them, as they go with this one. To follow on from them I believe we also need Lib Dems to get behind changes to the curriculum in secondary schools.

The National Curriculum in England gives standards for each subject, but not which subjects (beyond the core subjects of Maths, English and Science) must be taught. If a mainstream school offers History they must follow the History national curriculum standards, but if they don’t have a History teacher then they don’t have to offer it, that needs to change. We need a balanced curriculum for all students, irrespective of which school or local authority are students attend.

The changes we should bring are that all secondary schools (including academies or free schools) to offer the following GCSE options (options being subjects that are not core subjects):

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For-profit schools: some evidence of why I’m far from convinced

student_ipad_school - 175Labour’s shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, this week called on Michael Gove to rule out profit-making schools, arguing “Beyond 2015, whether it admits it or not, the Conservative Party intends to introduce the profit motive into English education”.

The Tories have sidestepped the issue and instead invited Labour to turn its fire on the Lib Dems: they claim that Nick Clegg’s advisers Julian Astle and Richard Reeves were behind-the-scenes cheerleaders for profit-making schools. The mercurial Dominic Cummings, Gove’s former special adviser, has made the same allegation. This may very …

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Poll of school leaders and governors: Don’t like Coalition’s education policies – BUT do like Lib Dem Pupil Premium and infant free school meals

05192014 - AD - Hartford 87A couple of findings worth highlighting from a major survey of more than 2,000 school leaders and governors, commissioned by The Key, and carried out by polling firm Ipsos Mori.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to discover that the Coalition’s performance on education is viewed unfavourably: three-quarters of school leaders (75%) are dissatisfied with almost half (46%) saying they are very dissatisfied. However, drill down a level and it’s clear there are some policies which are popular – two of three most …

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Opinion: How the “extras” of school life can raise attainment

school mealsI recently wrote this article about staffing in our schools. To follow on from that I’m moving on to some elements of school ‘life’. These ‘extras’ to the daily job of educating our children are all too often seen as not important, but in my experience they have a HUGE impact on the achievements and wellbeing of our children. (For info – I personally work in a secondary Academy, years 7-11).

Liberal Democrats need to strive to improve the life chances of our most vulnerable children, this can be done by:

Free

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Nick Clegg’s Twitter Q & A on education

nick clegg live tweet town hall 1st may 2014After this morning’s Call Clegg, Nick Clegg took to Twitter to answer questions on education. He digressed a little, into decarbonisation, housing and and Luis Suarez. It’s been a very engaging 24 hours for Nick Clegg because last night he took part in a conference call with key party campaigners from around the country to discuss the party’s Summer campaign. He has been told in no uncertain terms in a variety of formats that it was very important that he was more visible about reaching out to members and it’s good to see him doing so.  To be clear, he’s always done a lot of behind the scenes contact with members and elected representatives. Some get called, some surprised by hand-written notes at important times in their lives. I suspect last night’s call will be the first of many such initiatives from him. You have to give him credit, though, for being far more involved with his activists than either Cameron or Miliband. When was the last time they actually a) had meaningful interaction with any of their members or b) actually listened to their advice? Sometimes we feel far removed from the Westminster Bubble, but ours is a lot more penetrable than theirs. It needs to be, though, because Nick needs his activists much more than the others do.

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Mike Storey writes: Qualified teachers and a national curriculum

New Classroom“We are, and always will, be the party of education”. So Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said in his speech at Bloomberg last Monday. This is indeed what the Liberal Democrats stand for, and it’s not just an empty sound bite. The policies we pledge to adopt will be to ensure that school pupils will have the right to be taught by qualified teachers and taught a core curriculum – a truly national curriculum.

The recent ‘Trojan Horse’ controversy has shocked the national conscience. It highlighted that some schools ran a risk of depriving children of an all-rounded and fair education. Academies and free schools are based on the concept of autonomy, but this should not mean that children should suffer because of particular interests. Some schools that did have discretion over their curriculum were abusing that by stripping back the curriculum and narrowing the experience of schooling for every young child. Action needs to be taken to ensure children’s futures are not put at risk.

photo by: Editor B
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Nick Clegg’s press conference: A new policy, looking ahead to an “independent, liberal” manifesto, Iraq, leadership and Smarties

Nick Clegg Q&A 19I promised you a bit more from Nick Clegg’s  monthly press conference this morning. Overnight, he had released his opening statement, but there was a surprise to come – a shiny new policy.  Now, obviously, that has to come to Conference so it’s not set in stone, but I suspect it will get a favourable hearing.

From cradle to college

Basically, all early years and school education funding, including the Pupil Premium, will be ring-fenced.

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Clegg’s “Parental Guarantee”: calls for all schools to employ qualified teachers and teach ‘core curriculum’

Teacher In Classroom“We are and always will be the party of education and I’ll be saying more about that in the near future,” promised Nick Clegg in his Bloomburg speech on Monday. Today we saw the start, with the Lib Dem leader setting out the party’s Parental Guarantee that “every parent can be confident that their child will be taught a core curriculum by a properly qualified teacher”.

This isn’t actually a new policy. The ‘parental guarantee’ was first announced last October. And the policy it’s based on was …

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“What should the political parties promise on education in 2015?” – What I told Policy Exchange…

stephen tall px edu
I was one of the speakers at this weekend’s Policy Exchange conference which posed the question, ‘What should the political parties promise on education in 2015?’

Though I work in the education sector, I was there in a personal capacity to offer a Lib Dem perspective; very kindly Policy Exchange had invited Michael Gove and Tristram Hunt as warm-up acts for my seven minutes. You can watch what I had to say in the video at the foot of this post, starting at 2 mins in, or just read on… (If you check against delivery you’ll see I’ve tidied up some of my sentences, such as self-censoring my request to the

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Gove and Laws write for Times: We are committed to free school meals policy because evidence shows it helps kids achieve more

20120907-FNS-LSC-0544On his various media appearances this morning, Nick Clegg has been asked whether he ordered Michael Gove and David Laws to write an article setting out the background to the free school meals policy. He  said on Call Clegg that he had suggested it to them that they clarify the situation to reassure parents that the policy will be delivered on time.

This comes after a febrile few days when Dominic Cummings, Gove’s former Special Adviser, has been telling everyone who will listen that this was a policy drawn up pretty much …

photo by: USDAgov
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Opinion: Support teachers’ right to strike, but not the NUT strikes in June

Teacher - License Some rights reserved by ben110It’s no secret to readers of Liberal Democrat Voice that when I write an article, education professionals tend to get it in the neck. At least I’m consistent.

So why should the June strike bother me? Jerry Glazier highlights the issue of teachers’ workload that it is now up to 55 to 60 hours a week on average. This angered me because while youth unemployment stands at just under 1 million a qualified teacher in primary or secondary will start on £21,000 and on average …

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LibLink: Tim Farron – In 2010, we promised to deliver the Pupil Premium. In 2015, I want us to promise to deliver the Student Premium

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsLib Dem party president Tim Farron has given his personal backing to the Lib Dems promising a Student Premium – modelled on the well-received Pupil Premium – at the next election. First proposed by his colleague Stephen Williams, Tim writes the Student Premium “could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Here’s an excerpt of his article for the April issue of the magazine, Politics First:

The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal

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    On the up side it will at least make it true what Nick said way back in 2011 - " we won't find anything to...
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    The disaster that is Nick Clegg continues to inflict ever more damage on Liberal Democracy. As has been pointed out many times, Nick in the...
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    The mask slips even further. Clegg's whole raison d'etre in UK politics is about attacking Labour and keeping Cameron in Downing St. I listened to...
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