Over the last few weeks I have been assessing the education pledges being made by the main political parties in the run up to the election. Today, as millions of us go out to vote, I look at what the Conservative Party is offering Sheffield schools.
The difference between what it being offered by the Conservatives when compared to the other parties when it comes to education is startling. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party are roposing forward-thinking reforms that could transform our schools and plough in much needed money.
The Conservatives, on other the other hand, are proposing only a continuation of a destructive education policy that is well on the way to sending schools back to the 1980s.
Their record since gaining power in 2010 and being propped up by Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems is not good.
Under Michael Gove, schools have been pushed into an acadamisation process which amounts to privatisation and are currently experiencing hugely destructive cuts to their budgets.
Over the last seven years, teachers have suffered a pay-freeze and below inflation pay rises that, along with adjustments to their pension contributons, has relatively reduced their incomes. Their workload has increased, quality teachers are leaving in droves and – most annoyingly – the government refused to enter into meaningful discussions with teaching unions.
Why anybody with children or grandchildren in schools would vote Conservative today is beyond me because their manifesto makes it clear that they want more of the same.
There will be more wearing away of the education system, and another five years of it will leave us with a lot of catching up to do.
I have read through the Conservative manifesto and can count the good educational ideas on one finger. And even that one is flawed.
That single decent idea is to offer every primary school child a decent breakfast. The flaw is that they have only allocated £60million for this, which equates to just 7p per breakfast. And so the good idea crumbles because of the miserly allocation of funds.
Providing a decent breakfast, of course, is wonderful. But this won’t be a decent breakfast; we’re talking a slice of toast at best, so the whole argument of helping disadvantaged children get off to a decent start each day is dead and buried before it’s launched.
And they’re planning on giving with one hand and taking away with the other. The free school meals programme for children in Year 2 and under will come to an end.
The free school meal programme is far from perfect because it gives free food to the rich; not what I’d call effective spending. But there are also a great number of struggling families. But it just hasn’t been given enough time – it needs to run for longer so we can assess whether or not it makes an impact on attainment.
Cutting it off before it’s had chance to prove itself is not only an unintelligent move, it’s also mean.
The flagship Tory policy we’ve all heard so much about in recent months is expanding the number of grammar schools.
The Conservatives will tell you that this will benefit a large proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but in reality it’s a policy to please the wealthy that will benefit the privileged.
One thing I noticed about the Conservative manifesto is the lack of detail when spelling out their policies. Some areas lack financial information, but there are some lines in there that are not developed enough, leaving very ambiguous policy areas.
It’s a missed opportunity from Theresa May and Justine Greening.
Other parties are putting policies forward that would make a real difference, but the Tories are just wanting you to agree to more of the same.
Signing up for more of the same is fine if the system is working, but education in this country is on its knees.
More of the same is just not good enough.