From education to employment

Liberal Democrats Manifesto: Stop Brexit and Build a Brighter Future – Sector Response

Stop Brexit and Build a Brighter Future

£10 billion for schools and 20,000 more teachers is an investment in our children’s future

Today (Wednesday 20 November) the Liberal Democrats announced plans to spend £10 billion more a year on schools and hire 20,000 more teachers by the end of the next Parliament.

A Liberal Democrat government will reverse frontline school cuts since 2015 with an emergency cash injection of £4.6 billion next year.

By 2024/25, the party will spend £10.6 billion more on schools than in 2019/20. This is more than the Conservatives have offered in every year of the Parliament.

Liberal Democrats will use this money to boost teaching numbers by 20,000 over five years. A Liberal Democrat government will attract and retain teachers by increasing starting salaries to £30,000 and guaranteeing all teachers a pay rise of at least 3% a year over the next Parliament.

The funding also includes an increase in support for children with special educational needs or a disability, and money to provide high-quality professional development for teachers.

In addition, Liberal Democrats will invest in the fabric of our schools, setting aside £7 billion over five years to build classrooms fit for the future.

The party will allocate £10 billion of the £50 billion Remain Bonus – the boost to the public finances that would result from stopping Brexit – to increase schools funding.

Jo Swinson 100x100Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats said: 

“This is an investment in our children’s future. Our schools should be world class, helping every child make the most of the challenges ahead.

“But instead, they are trailing behind. The Conservatives have cut school funding to the bone and children have paid the price, especially those with the most complex needs.

“It is disgraceful that some schools feel they have no choice but to ask parents to chip in for supplies, and are closing early on Friday to balance the books.

“Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for every child. By stopping Brexit, we can spend £10 billion of our Remain Bonus on reversing school cuts and hiring 20,000 more teachers – so that pupils can leave school happy, healthy and with the skills they need to succeed in life.

“This just one of the fantastic policies from our manifesto that will help build a brighter future for our country.”

Layla Moran100x100Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary said:

“Headteachers are crying out for more staff. But too many are leaving the profession because they are overworked and underpaid.

“The Conservatives only care about teaching children to be tested. High-stakes Ofsted inspections and SATs tests are placing an unacceptable burden on pupils and teachers alike.

“Highly valued, well trained teachers are the most important resource we have in our education system. So Liberal Democrats will recruit 20,000 more teachers and give them the pay and support they deserve.

“We will increase salaries by 3% a year, guarantee high-quality training, stop political meddling in the curriculum and end teaching to the test. Let’s trust teachers to give children the best possible start in life.”

angela rayner thumbnailAngela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“This is an austerity manifesto from a party that has recently welcomed in many former Tory MPs with open arms.

“Young people getting into debts today of over £55,000 will never forget the Lib-Dems’ betrayal on tuition fees and austerity.

“Voting for the Lib-Dems in this election is a wasted vote that will only open the door to a post-Brexit Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage alliance with Donald Trump to sell off our NHS.”

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The NEU welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to reverse the cuts to the main school budget lines since 2015 with an emergency cash injection of £4.6 billion, which is £2 billion more than the Government has promised. We also welcome the commitment to spend £10.6 billion more on schools in 2024-25 compared with 2019-20.

“These monies announced today are enough to reverse the cuts to the Schools Block but do not seem to fill the hole in special needs funding or restore the value of the Pupil Premium. Further, there does not appear to be any money for areas suffering from historic underfunding. We look forward to further conversations to address these.

“The Government’s continued underfunding of education, leaving 83% of schools worse off than in 2015, is now untenable. The unfair and regressive cuts to schools have blighted our children’s education for far too long. We urge the public to vote only for candidates who sign the pledge on school funding at

“We welcome the Liberal Democrats’ recognition that teachers’ pay needs to rise as it has been cut by more than 15% in real terms since 2010, affecting both recruitment and retention of qualified teachers. Like the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats’ are pledging to raise starting pay which may help with teacher recruitment. However, offering a 3% increase per year with inflation unknown is unfortunately unlikely to help much with retention.

“The commitment to recruit 20,000 more teachers is welcome but there must be a commitment to tackle the problems that are making it hard to recruit graduates into teaching and driving experienced teachers out the profession. Excessive workload driven by the high-stakes testing regime has made education an unfriendly place for education professionals. We need to see real action including ending high-stakes testing, abolishing Ofsted and restoring the focus of education. Only when teachers’ professional agency is restored will teaching once again be the attractive profession that it should be.”

david hughes 100 x100AoC Chief Executive David Hughes said:

“It’s great to see another major further education announcement from a major political party. It is clear, whoever you talk to that colleges play a huge role in answering the big questions facing the country.

“Colleges have been calling for a young people’s premium that has the potential to reach the most disadvantaged students in society. Colleges do so much vital work to with people from different backgrounds, walks of life and circumstances, but could do so much more with a properly funded system that works for all.

“The education system is not delivering to meet these needs now, so changes and fairer investment are vital. Scrapping the learning tax and raising the funding rate for 16-19 year olds are a step in the right direction in levelling the playing field for colleges. It’s absolutely right that the political parties continue to make this election about improving the life chances of all people.”

AoC is asking all parliamentary candidates to sign up to the following five priorities:

  1. A new place for colleges with a streamlined regulatory regime which gives colleges a protected title that places colleges at the heart of the national infrastructure.
  2. Ensure no young person is left behind – colleges must be funded to offer engaging and motivating programmes for young people which also improve English and maths and address high needs.
  3. Commit to investment and long-term funding for colleges that strengthens institutions and develops the professional workforce
  4. A new lease of life for lifelong learning – that boosts opportunities for adults and apprentices across the country.
  5. Equal access to education and training – Maintenance support, increase in bursary fund, transport discounts, child benefit and mental health support for people from low income families.”

Bill Watkin 100x100Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said:

“The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto contains some very welcome commitments on post-16 education. Our understanding is that most of the £1 billion investment announced today will be used to Raise the Rate of funding for sixth form students. This would help to ensure that colleges and schools have the resources they need to provide every 16 to 18 year old with a high quality education – the fundamental aim of the Raise the Rate campaign.

“Schools have their VAT costs refunded but colleges do not – we estimate that the Lib Dem commitment to scrap this ‘learning tax’ would mean the average sixth form college had an additional £350,000 per year to spend on the front line education of students. Increasing investment for schools and colleges, and reducing inequality between schools and colleges, will benefit all sixth form students, irrespective of where they choose to study”. 

This announcement came ahead of the Liberal Democrat manifesto launched later today:

      Stop Brexit and Build a Brighter Future – Our Plan for Better Education and Skills

Education is about achieving the best, about exploring possibilities and seeking new challenges, about fulfilling people’s promise for the good of themselves and the whole of society. The next generation will face a complex, technologically advanced and ever-changing world. England’s education system – from nurseries and schools, to universities and colleges – should be world-class, helping every child to make the most of the opportunities ahead, no matter their ability or background. It must nurture not only academic excellence but also creativity, adaptability, and teamwork. Instead, nurseries are struggling, and the attainment gap between rich and poor is widening. Teaching assistants are being laid off. Cash-strapped councils are struggling to support children with complex needs. Too many schools are unable to keep their doors open for a full five-day week.

The Conservatives are failing our children. They have cut school and college budgets to the bone. They focus too heavily on test results at the expense of giving children a good all-round education. The closest they have to a big idea is the backward- looking and divisive plan to create more grammar schools, despite the evidence that shows that they harm social mobility. Labour want to waste time and money on a massive top-down reorganisation which will do nothing to improve standards.

The high-stakes culture of Ofsted inspections and testing – especially in primary schools – has led to pupils and teachers being anxious and stressed about going to school. Creative subjects are being squeezed out of the classroom.

Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for every one of our children. We have a plan to boost quality at every stage of education.

We will start with a bold offer of free childcare from the of age nine months (the end of paid parental leave), transforming the opportunities for early years education and helping parents who want to combine caring and working.

We will reverse school cuts with an immediate emergency cash injection so that pupils have the resources they need to learn, and let teachers get on with the job of raising standards rather than having to worry about budgeting for the basics.

Parents should get the full picture of how their school is doing. Primary schools cannot be properly measured by just one week of tests. There must be robust inspections that measure social and emotional development alongside attainment. They should support schools to succeed, instead of punishing them for failure.

Parents should not have to be kept waiting for their child’s needs to be identified and supported. Liberal Democrats will put wellbeing at the heart of every school, and better fund special needs education.

Further Education colleges have a vital role in giving opportunities to young people who want to pursue vocational study, and Liberal Democrats will end the neglect they have suffered for too long. The UK has some outstanding universities and research institutions and we need to build on their success.

In the brighter Liberal Democrat future, children will come home from school happier, healthier and with all the skills they need to succeed in life. Free childcare will allow parents to choose the balance of work and childcare that suits them, and help close attainment gaps in education and gender gaps in pay. Revitalised vocational and Higher Education will equip individuals and the economy to thrive.

Our top priorities in the next parliament will be:

  • Providing free, high-quality childcare for children of working parents from nine months.
  • Reversing cuts to school funding, employing an extra 20,000 schoolteachers, and clearing the backlog of repairs to school and college buildings.
  • Ending teaching to the test by scrapping mandatory SATs, and replacing existing government performance tables (‘league tables’) of schools with a broader set of indicators.

       The Best Start in Life

Nurseries are struggling. With no government support for most families between the end of parental leave and age three, and the average price for 25 hours a week of nursery childcare for a child under two now at £6,600 a year, too many new parents are forced to choose between caring for their child and their careers. At the same time, the achievement gap between richer and poorer, which can best be tackled in the early years, is rising.

The Conservatives have promised to help, but their childcare policy only covers three- and four-year-olds in working families, only amounts to 30 hours a week – less time than children spend in school – and doesn’t cover school holidays. Even the hours they do offer are underfunded and this means that many providers struggle to deliver a quality Early Years education. Many parents who want to work, especially mothers, can spend several years out of the workplace because they can’t afford childcare. This affects their career trajectory, their confidence, and their long-term earning potential.

Liberal Democrats have a plan to deliver the best start in life for children: free high-quality childcare from nine months for all working parents, properly funded. Parents wanting to go back to work will get the help they need, knowing that their child will be happy, healthy and ready to start school. And by tripling the Early Years Pupil Premium and expanding Children’s Centres, we can give further help to the most disadvantaged children, narrowing the achievement gap. We will:

  • Offer free, high-quality childcare for every child aged two to four and children aged between nine and 24 months where their parents or guardians are in work: 35 hours a week, 48 weeks a year.
  • Increase the funding for these free hours to cover the actual cost of nursery provision.
  • Invest £1 billion a year in Children’s Centres to support families and tackle inequalities in children’s health, development and life chances.
  • Triple the Early Years Pupil Premium (to £1,000) to give extra help to disadvantaged children who are at risk of falling behind from the very beginning of their education.
  • Require all Early Years settings to have a training programme for staff, with the majority of staff working with children to have a relevant Early Years qualification or be working towards one.
  • In the long run, each Early Years setting should have at least one person qualified to graduate level.
  • Introduce ‘baby boxes’ in England, as advocated by the Royal College of Midwives, to provide babies and parents with essential items to help with health and development.

       Schools that Prepare Children for Life

An education system which focuses only on a narrow range of academic subjects and measures pupils’ abilities in a handful of high-pressure exams, does not give young people the skills they need to get on in life. It also lets down those children who do not work well in exam conditions. Liberal Democrats will ensure England’s education system delivers high academic standards while also helping children grow into happy, healthy and confident adults; and nurtures and values all styles of learning. We will:

  • Reverse cuts to school funding, allowing schools to employ an extra 20,000 teachers and reduce class sizes, restoring them to 2015 levels per pupil with an emergency cash injection.
  • Invest to clear the backlog of repairs to school and college buildings so we have schools that are safe places to learn in.
  • End the crisis in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities funding by allocating additional cash to local authorities to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child’s Education Health and Care Plan.
  • Introduce a ‘curriculum for life’, in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education, financial literacy, environmental awareness, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship and age-appropriate Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content will be included in RSE.
  • Establish an independent body of education experts who will use the most up-to-date educational evidence to oversee any future curriculum changes. It would take these decisions out of the hands of politicians and put an end to unnecessary and often politically motivated changes, which disrupt children’s learning and place an extra burden on teachers.
  • Reduce unnecessary stress on pupils and teachers and end ‘teaching to the test’, by scrapping existing mandatory SATs and replacing them with a formal, moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and some lighter-touch testing.
  • Give parents school performance measures they can trust, by replacing existing government performance tables (‘league tables’) with a broader set of indicators including information about pupils’ and teachers’ wellbeing, as well as academic attainment.
  • Replace Ofsted with a new HM Inspector of Schools. Inspections should take place every three years and should consider a broader range of factors including the social and emotional development of children, and the wellbeing of staff and pupils. Independent schools should be subject to the same inspection regime.
  • Improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment, and improve careers advice and links with employers in schools and colleges.
  • Protect the availability of arts and creative subjects in the curriculum and act to remove barriers to pupils studying these subjects, including by abolishing the English Baccalaureate as a performance measure.
  • Teach the core skills required for children to flourish in the modern world, including critical thinking, verbal reasoning and creativity.

       Accountable Local Schools

The fragmentation of the education system, with more than half of secondary schools and one quarter of primary schools in Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), had led to a lack of accountability to local communities. There is competition rather than cooperation between schools, with some operating unfair admissions systems and off-rolling pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability or those unlikely to succeed in examinations.

With academies standing outside the oversight of Local Authorities, and many MAT schools not even having a local governing body, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to raise issues with schools, and there is little evidence that the children’s voice is heard. There is an increasing trend to exclude children (or use internal exclusion units), which is damaging and dangerous to the young people involved. The Conservatives’ ideological obsession with more grammar schools will only add further division to the system. Liberal Democrats want to restore accountability and give every child the chance of attending an excellent local school. We will:

  • Give local authorities with responsibility for education the powers and resources to act as Strategic Education Authorities for their area, including responsibility for places planning, exclusions, administering admissions including in-year admissions, and SEND functions.
  • Create a level playing field by requiring MATs to undergo external inspection and allowing local authorities to open new Community Schools where needed.
  • Oppose any future expansion of grammar schools and devolve all capital funding for new school spaces to local authorities.

       A Better Deal for Teachers

There is a crisis in teacher retention and recruitment in our schools, driven by years of real-terms pay cuts, and an increasingly unmanageable workload created by unnecessary bureaucracy. Teachers feel demoralised and undervalued, as the funding crisis in our schools coupled with the culture of excessive high-stakes testing prevent them from giving every child the high-quality education they deserve.

Liberal Democrats will ensure teachers are paid a fair wage for the vital work they do, and that they are empowered to focus on delivering a high-quality education to their pupils, rather than being put under unnecessary pressure from testing and inspections which offer little-to-no educational benefit. Teachers are the biggest and most important asset in our education system. They need world-class levels of training and support to help them deliver the great teaching we want in our schools. We will:

  • Raise the starting salary for teachers to £30,000 and increase all teachers’ pay by at least three per cent per year throughout the parliament.
  • Introduce a clear and properly funded entitlement to genuinely high-quality professional development for all teachers – rising to the level of 50 hours per year by 2025. We will also give extra training to teachers who are required to teach subjects at secondary level where they themselves do not have a post A-level qualification.

       Children and Families Ready to Learn

Education doesn’t begin and end at the school gates. A love of learning can be nurtured from early childhood, and continue throughout life. However, our young people are some of the most anxious and unhappy in the world. Schools are on the front line in dealing with children and young adults with mental health issues. We also know that children cannot learn properly if they are undernourished.

Parents are under huge pressure and receive little support even though home is the biggest influence on children’s learning. Liberal Democrats believe that parents need to be properly empowered and supported with the tools they need to raise the next generation. To ensure children and adults are able to make the most of the educational opportunities which are open to them, the government must also do more to support health and wellbeing. We will:

  • Extend free school meals to all children in primary education and to all secondary school children whose families receive Universal Credit, as well as promoting school breakfast clubs.
  • Ensure that all teaching staff have the training to identify mental health issues and that schools provide immediate access for pupil support and counselling.
  • Ensure there is a specific individual responsible for mental health in schools, who would provide a link to expertise and support for children experiencing problems. They would also take a lead on developing whole-school approaches to mental well-being.
  • Give schools a statutory duty to promote the wellbeing of their pupils as part of the inspection framework.
  • Tackle bullying in schools, including bullying on the basis of gender, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression, by promoting pastoral leadership in schools and delivering high-quality sex and relationships education.
  • Require inclusive school uniform policies that are gender-neutral and flexible enough to suit different budgets, and provide training for school staff on how to review and improve their uniform policies.
  • Challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to promote positive body image and break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects.
  • Include teaching about how to use social media responsibly in our ’curriculum for life‘ and provide advice and support for parents on how to help their children protect themselves online.

       Learning Throughout Life

British universities are examples of excellence throughout the world. Their ability to maintain top-quality research activity, to attract funding and to deliver the best teaching depends on being open and outward looking – which this Government’s disastrous approach to Brexit is already damaging. Liberal Democrats will protect our world-leading higher education sector by stopping Brexit, enabling it to continue to rely on international collaboration and being able to attract leading academics from around the world. Further Education is vital route to learning and we will invest to support it. We will:

  • Reverse the damage to universities posed by Brexit and related uncertainty by stopping Brexit and keeping the UK at the heart of the EU.
  • Invest an extra £1 billion in Further Education funding, including by refunding colleges for the VAT they pay.
  • Help children from poorer families to remain in education and training beyond the age of 16 by introducing a ‘Young People’s Premium’. This would be based on the same eligibility criteria as the Pupil Premium, but a portion of it would be paid directly to the young person aged 16-18.
  • Raise standards in universities by strengthening the Office for Students, to make sure all students receive a high-quality education.
  • Require universities to make mental health services accessible to their students, and introduce a Student Mental Health Charter through legislation.
  • Reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students, ensuring that living costs are not a barrier to disadvantaged young people studying at university.
  • Establish a review of higher education finance in the next parliament to consider any necessary reforms in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality, and make sure there are no more retrospective raising of rates or selling-off of loans to private companies.
  • Ensure that all universities work to widen participation by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups across the sector, prioritising their work with students in schools and colleges, and require every university to be transparent about selection criteria.

       Access to Culture and Sport

Arts, media and sports are essential for personal fulfilment and quality of life – they enlarge people’s experience and are part of what turns a group of people into a community. Funding for these organisations is put at risk with Brexit. Liberal Democrats will ensure that we continue to invest in our cultural capital. We will:

  • Maintain free access to national museums and galleries.
  • Move towards introducing ‘safe standing’ at football clubs, requiring the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to prepare guidance for implementing this change.
  • Support anti-racism and anti-homophobia campaigns in sport.
  • Protect the independence of the BBC and set up a BBC Licence Fee Commission, maintain Channel 4 in public ownership and protect the funding and editorial independence of Welsh language broadcasters.
  • Protect sports and arts funding via the National Lottery.
  • Examine the available funding and planning rules for live music venues and the grassroots music sector, protecting venues from further closures.

Liberal Democrats will increase schools spending by £4.6 billion in 2020/21. Schools will have £10.6 billion more to spend in 2024/25 compared to 2019/20.

This money will be spent on:

  • Reversing real-terms per-pupil cuts to frontline school budgets (the ‘schools block’) so that schools will have the same spending power next year as they had in 2015/16;
  • Keeping the schools block rising in line with the actual cost pressures that schools face (as calculated by teaching unions) and increases in pupil numbers;
  • Additional funding for pupils with special educational needs or a disability.
  • A plan to increase the net number of full-time equivalent teachers in England’s state schools by 20,000 by 2024/25, including by:
    • Increasing a teacher’s starting salary to £30,000 by 2022/23, matching the Conservatives’ commitment;
    • Giving all state school teachers a pay rise of at least 3% a year for five years;
    • A fully-funded entitlement to 50 hours a year of continuing professional development for teachers by 2025;

Total day-to-day schools spending (schools RDEL excluding depreciation and pensions funding), £bn

  2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 2023-24 2024-25
Conservative plans
(Spending Round 2019)
43.5 46.1 48.3 50.7    
Increase on 2019-20   2.6 4.8 7.1    
Barnett   0.5 0.9 1.3    
Liberal Democrat plans 43.5 48.1 49.6 51.1 52.6 54.1
Increase on 2019-20   4.6 6.1 7.6 9.1 10.6
Barnett   0.9 1.1 1.4 1.7 2.0
In addition, the Liberal Democrats will invest an extra £7 billion of capital spending over the next five years in new school buildings and repairs.

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