Education should be at the heart of communities and should promote social and emotional well-being, equality, inclusion and responsibility. Schools need more freedom to frame the curriculum around the needs and interests of the young people in the school and further education needs to be freely available to all.
The Green Party would phase in the abolition of student tuition fees in higher education. There would be no student loans and living costs would be met by Citizen’s Income. In the short term we would reintroduce student grants to meet living costs, rather than putting financial pressure on parents to support their children through university.
We would encourage a move towards ending the need for private education by creating a programme of voluntary assimilation of private schools into the state sector. Schools that remain in the private sector would have charitable status removed and would pay all relevant taxes, such as VAT.
The Green Party would phase out City Academies and Trust Schools as we believe that it is wrong to allow businesses, religious and other outside organisations to have too great an influence over schools. We would let teachers do what they do best – teach – and abolish the remaining SATS tests, and give schools and teachers more freedom over the curriculum they teach.
In terms of training, The Green Party would also offer Green workforce training and an environmental community programmes, including training courses for jobs in energy conservation and renewable energy, with grant-funded conversion courses for skilled engineers from other industries. We would spend £5bn in the next year on creating 350,000 training places, offering opportunities to 700,000 unemployed people, in particular the young unemployed. We would introduce children to renewable technologies at school by ensuring that most schools get the bulk of their energy from on-site renewable sources.
We believe that further education colleges should receive the same amount of state funding as secondary schools. Currently, further education teachers earn less than other teachers, and funding to further education colleges is significantly lower than other state-run colleges.
In Brighton, where Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas is tipped to become the MP, local councillors have been working with council officers to ensure more diverse training and work is provided for young people from the age of 14. They have also been working hard to ensure that new buildings are built using local businesses which involve young people undertaking apprenticeships so that they get hands on experience in their chosen profession.
And recently, while visiting a local FE college Green Party Deputy Leader Adrian Ramsay recently pledged his support to continued funding of vocational courses and other further education, should he be elected as the MP for Norwich South.
I believe education should continue to be treated as a process and not a product. It should enable a democratisation of knowledge and skills that are available to anyone who wants to study, be it for a degree, practical training or an apprenticeship regardless of their age or background. Further education, along with higher education, is essential in developing a balanced and successful society.
Our society will need people to be educated to the highest level of which they are capable if we are to create sustainable and fair communities – but this means not putting sole emphasis on higher education at the expense of further education. Education in all forms is important, and the Green Party are the only party who remain committed to axing fees and increasing funding – for all types of college.
Darren Johnson is the Green Party spokesman for Trade and Industry