Education, education, education

I think we all remember who came out with this well-known phrase?  Tony Blair made a speech outlining his three priorities for Government in 2001, explaining that each of them was in fact education!

The Liberal Democrats have long claimed to be the party for education, with some justification.  If you ask a Liberal Democrat member who has been around in the party for at least 24 years what they think the party’s best policy has been, the chances are they will sweep you back to Paddy Ashdown’s day with “a penny on income tax for education”.

Back then raising the standard rate of income tax by one penny to fund more spending was a radical and distinctive policy, both in its tax-raising element and in its direct hypothecation of the money for education. It helped carve out a strong point for the party on education.  

Similarly, the Pupil Premium policy, enacted during the coalition era was a fabulous Lib Dem education policy, and is yielding some positive results in terms of offering disadvantaged children more opportunities during their education.

So what next?  The Lib Dem Education Association (LDEA) continues to innovate on education policy and offer fresh perspectives and policy ideas to the Federal Policy Committee and the leadership of the Lib Dem party.  Every year the LDEA holds an annual conference (in conjunction with the LGA), for Lib Dem members and others with a strong interest or affiliation to the world of education to come together to share ideas and discuss “what next for education?”

This year we are holding the one-day conference in Oxford and are proud to welcome Alison Peacock, CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching, who will lead a discussion on “Teaching as a valued and respected profession”.  Lib Dem Education Spokesperson, Layla Moran MP, will also be taking part as a speaker, and David Corke, Director of Policy and Research at the Association of Colleges will lead a session on “Apprenticeships and the future of Further Education”.  He will be looking at areas such as: the operation of the Apprenticeship Levy, the “T Level” qualification, and general FE funding.

The world of education is evolving at a rapid rate and we all need to keep informed and on top of the debate so that we can continue to lead and innovate on education policy.  Join us on Saturday 23rd February to share ideas, learn and innovate.  Details of the conference and how to sign up are here.

* Helen Flynn is an Executive Member of the LDEA. She is a former Parliamentary Candidate and Harrogate Borough Councillor and has served on the Federal Policy Committee and Federal Board. She has been a school governor in a variety of settings for 19 years and currently chairs a multi academy trust in the north of England.

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  • “Tuition fee”

  • I hope the new Chartered College of Teaching fairs better than it’s predecessor the Institute for Learning, which withered and closed in 2014 as a result of changes made by the government in 2012…

  • Peter Watson 29th Jan '19 - 9:28pm

    “the Pupil Premium policy, enacted during the coalition era was a fabulous Lib Dem education policy”
    Labour and the Conservatives also had a Pupil Premium in their 2010 manifestos.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jan '19 - 9:20am

    @ Helen Flynn,

    “Back then raising the standard rate of income tax by one penny to fund more spending was a radical and distinctive policy, both in its tax-raising element and in its direct hypothecation of the money for education”

    Notwithstanding my general support for more well directed spending on education, I have to say I’m not sure how anything which is technically incorrect can be considered ‘radical’! This is classic ‘household economics’ thinking. The Government is not a household.

    The way the economy works is that the Government creates money by spending it into the economy and then gets back most of what it’s spent in the first place by imposing taxes. It can’t get back more than it’s created in the first place so deficits and debts are quite normal and inevitable. The taxes that are imposed aren’t ” to fund more spending”. Why does the Govt need what it can create at will? They are imposed, primarily, to prevent inflation. Period.

    Politically this “put a penny on income tax” approach is counterproductive in any case. It isn’t just education, its the NHS, its socal care, it’s defence, the police and all the other things we’d like to spend more on. No political party can say we should put a penny on income tax for everything and still expect to win.

    What we can afford depends on the available resources in the economy. We’ve only so many people available to be teachers, doctors and nurses etc. Technical advances, like automated check outs in supermarkets, driverless trucks etc should be welcomed, in any sensibly run economy, because that frees up more people to be available to be teachers, doctors and nurses!

  • Helen’s main point is the importance of Education and the degree to which it has been a huge part of what Liberal Democrats fight for and this should not be missed in the discussion about detail made above. It is also best to carry the debate forward to deal with the current situation and have a vision for the future of our young people and not dwell on the past.
    As the chair of the Liberal Democrat Association I can say that we have chosen to focus on two of many elements of current concern; one is to support teachers in their demanding task and the other is the government’s return to a neglect of the FE sector. We have asked Layla Moran to speak, since she has kickstarted a Commission on Education; she has charged the commission to set out a vision for the future of Education that our party can discuss and work towards in its future policy making.
    We in the LDEA are subsidising the cost of this conference; for those travelling by train it is only 10minutes walk from Oxford Station and I am looking forward to some helpful comments from those attending and some helpful outcomes that will inform our Education policy-making.

  • Peter Watson 30th Jan '19 - 12:53pm

    It’s not an area I know much about, but in my ignorance I wonder if Lib Dems should promote a radical overhaul of the teaching of modern foreign languages in schools.

    In the context of Brexit, it strikes me that one of the concerns expressed by many people is fear about job security and wage depression, etc. because of competition for employment with highly motivated Europeans who have a good grasp of the English language (the least motivated probably stay at home! 😉 ). It can feel as though the free movement of workers is one-way traffic, and perhaps more widespread fluency in another language would help mitigate this.

    Globally, English is an obvious choice of second language for most non-native speakers but in this country we have a bewildering range of options, none of which are more compelling than another, so foreign language learning from 4-16 can be a bit of a hotch-potch with no continuity.

    Perhaps we should arbitrarily select one modern foreign language that will be taught in a structured and consistent way throughout every child’s time in school Although this feels like an uncomfortably illiberal approach, perhaps the ends would justify the means.

  • I’m delighted that the conference will be looking at apprenticeships.

    It’s a shockingly neglected topic; those not aspiring to the traditional professions have never been taken seriously by the British establishment despite a long series of reports dating right back to the industrial revolution (yes, really!) that have identified the lack of adequate training as a critical weakness compared with our leading international competitors.

    Getting it right would be one of the most empowering initiatives any government could take unleashing who knows what human potential not to mention putting bread on many tables and taking a big step towards revitalising industry.

    I suspect (but can’t prove) that this has persisted because (a) most cabinet ministers’ and all civil servants’ own post-school experience is of university so it’s the only model they know, and (b) they only care about themselves and their own children.

    So, when eventually ‘something had to be done’ what we got was an insane expansion of universities that stretches the original definition way beyond breaking point. Yet, despite all this spending, anyone needing a good plumber will still very likely get a Polish one.

    Sadly, the Lib Dems have never had much to say about apprenticeships. There is a vague nod in their direction in the ‘Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities’ (Policy Paper #133) published recently but it lacks any conviction or detail. (To be fair to the Policy Working Group that wrote it, skills was only one of 14 points they were directed to consider by the FPC so it was an impossible brief.)

    The good news is that there is a very simple, tried and tested, – but overlooked – model for apprenticeships which, if adopted, would slash costs while dramatically improving results. With Brexit looming those are both about to become critically important objectives. Is there a will to think outside the box and make the necessary changes? We will see.

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