ED001 This education policy is structured into the following sections. Sections 3-18 inclusive focus on learning for school-aged children. As outlined in the Introduction the Green Party believes that education is important throughout life. There is less need for specific policies on life-long learning as there will be as much autonomy as possible and most issues can be addressed through general principles; this is in no way intending to reflect the lack of importance we feel should be attached to it. We hope by setting out an appropriate system for compulsory learning that this will nurture in everyone a desire to continue learning throughout life.
ED003 In accordance with general Green Party principles, decisions about education will be devolved to the most local level that is possible. However in order to ensure equal opportunities, accessibility and standardisation of qualifications there will be a need for monitoring by Local Authorities regarding issues such as the quality of education, the range of options offered and consistency of internal assessment. This will in turn be monitored centrally both for consistency and to share best practice.
ED010 The Green Party believes that education should provide everyone of all ages with the knowledge and skills they require to be able to participate fully and contribute to the society in which they live. This is not just academic knowledge, but social skills, life skills, and respect for other people’s rights and lifestyles.
ED011 We want to develop an education system that will nurture a desire to learn throughout life. We will do this through a child-centred approach to learning which builds on the skills and interests of each individual child.
Early Years education
ED022 In accordance with the values outlined in the Introduction there will be an emphasis on social cohesion, play, relatedness and character building as well as knowledge and skills particularly in the early years.
ED023 We will move towards a system in which early years education extends until the age of 6. This will mean that academic learning is not introduced until the age of 6. That does not preclude those who wish to enter their children into school earlier from doing so.
ED024 Free and subsidised nurseries and early years education combined with Citizens’ Income would help to create structures that encourage and support parental involvement and nurture in these important years. We would build upon and continue successful schemes such as Sure Start.
ED026 As with our policies on schools, early years establishments will be small enough to provide community units with continuity and consistency of staff for all children and small enough to provide a safe and secure environment as a base for children’s exploration of the environment and social relationships. They will be within walking distance of children’s homes in urban areas.
School starting and leaving age
ED030 We will conduct pilot projects and create all-through schools such as those in Scandinavia, which can alleviate the challenges of transition between schools and strengthen community cohesion and relations between staff, parents and pupils. This would be in the context of smaller schools (see Size of Schools). This may include a change at the age of 14 where social and emotional development suggests this is a good time for a new start in a more adult atmosphere and when aptitudes and likely career paths are easier to diagnose. From this age education may be provided in co-operation with workplace learning/training.
ED031 It will continue to be compulsory for all young people to be educated between the years of 7-16. From the age of 14 this may be provided through a variety of contexts including through skills and practical training, vocational placements and at Youth Schools.
ED030 In addition to compulsory education there will be Youth Schools in every town as in other European countries such as Denmark for young people to opt to attend from the age of 14. This will provide somewhere safe for young people to socialise in the evenings, and structured learning will take place as it does in adult education, including a wide variety of courses, life skills, practical and vocational training. This will complement the Extended Schools programme which is primarily for activities immediately after school.
Curriculum for school-aged children
ED040 According to Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children's opinions on what and how they are taught should be taken into account. Children and young people's own interests and enthusiasms are the natural starting-point for productive learning, the roots from which a broad curriculum can grow.
ED041 Therefore the National School Curriculum will be replaced with a set of learning entitlements (listed below), in the context of which learners and teachers together will develop curriculum content to suit their needs and interests. Children and young people will be entitled to experience of:
See also AG612 on education in Agriculture
ED042 Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) should be age-appropriate, start at a sufficiently early age and continue throughout young people’s education. As part of the SRE curriculum, children should be fully aware of puberty before it happens, relationships should be taught as well as the physical aspects of sex and the potential consequences of sex before sexual activity begins. As part of SRE access to sexual health services should be made available in secondary schools, either on site or integrated with local young people's sexual health services.
ED050 A healthy education system would include a broad range of cumulative, formative and summative assessment, including self-assessment. Assessment should be unobtrusive and in the interests of enhancing the learning of the individual child.
ED051 There is currently too much emphasis on national tests and fulfilling marking schemes, which can oppress teaching and learning and create a great deal of unnecessary pressure on children as young as 7. Teaching and learning are too often dominated by meeting targets and ticking boxes both for teachers and for pupils.
ED053 In order to promote the aims of education outlined in the Introduction and encourage and give importance to the broad range of subjects and learning styles outlined in Curriculum (ED041), assessment of social, creative and emotional skills should be developed.
ED055 The Green Party will abolish league tables in their current form as they give an over-inflated impression of schools with a higher ability intake which can contribute towards problems with admissions.
Structure and Accountability of Schools
ED070 In order to maximise engagement and good communication between parents, students, teachers and other staff and the wider community, there will be considerable efforts to ensure that all parties are democratically involved in the running of the school through School Councils and Governing Bodies.
ED075 Governing Bodies will be properly funded to acknowledge the high level of responsibility granted to people and to remunerate people for their time where necessary so that the role is equally accessible to everyone who wants to do it.
Year-round Opening of Schools
ED080 ED080 Well-equipped school buildings represent a key community resource, which should be used to the full. In parts of the USA, schools/learning centres are open every day throughout the year, from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. Families, pupils and teachers select their own periods of attendance, what they study or teach, and when they take holiday breaks. School capacity can go up 30% or more, meaning (a) no rationing of places, or (b) less need to establish new schools, or (c) smaller classes, or some combination of all three of these features.
Size of Schools
ED101 We would also work towards having smaller schools with a maximum size of 700 for secondary schools. There is evidence that smaller schools have a more positive ethos which can reduce behavioural problems. It would also enhance a sense of community and encourage a greater proportion of people to be involved so that they are more democratically run as well as reducing the need for transport to school.
ED103 Existing small schools will be protected, and developed as community resources rather than closed. They will be encouraged to become partners with nearby schools where possible, to share resources and specialist staff. Small schools threatened with closure, particularly in rural areas, will be encouraged to merge with one or more other schools within the Local Authority area. Each school would remain in their individual locations and retain their own identities but be managed by a single Headteacher working within one overall budget.
ED111 Currently vast sums of government money are spent on Specialist Schools and Academies, both of which restrict how a school chooses to spend its money. In practice, schools often decide on a specialism just to get extra funding, regardless of whether that specialism is needed in the area. Children rarely choose their school on the basis of their specialisms as they are likely to attend their local school. Even if this weren’t the case, it would still not be appropriate for children as young as 10 to decide on their specialism and could discourage attendance at local community schools.
ED114 Admissions structures will continue to be determined at a local level, which will encourage placing young people at the local school. In the longer term Faith Schools, Academies and private schools will conform to the same admissions criteria as Local Authority schools.
Different types of schools
ED120 Many different types of schools currently exist, including comprehensive schools, boarding schools, public schools, specialist schools and ‘alternative’ schools such as Steiner schools. In the state sector there are also specialist schools and schools for young people with special needs. All young people have a right to receive a high standard of education at their local school, regardless of their background, where they live and what their financial background or level of ability is.
ED121 The Green Party acknowledges that there is a need to embrace a diverse range of educational approaches. Ultimately this diversity will be available to all young people without discrimination of any factors such as financial background.
ED122 The state currently subsidises independent schools, for example through paying for places for children of parents working in jobs such as diplomats, the British Council, and the military sector. This highlights the need for the state to fully represent the diversity in our education system, for example by increasing the number of state-funded boarding schools.
ED123 There is a need to address why people choose to send their children to private schools. All comprehensive schools need to reach higher standards, with smaller classes and a diverse choice of subjects.
ED124 Children with a high level of ability or who are from a background where education is highly valued are likely to have a positive influence on the learning experience of their peers. Many of these young people are learning in the independent sector. This creates additional challenges to schools in the state sector and is to some extent causing social divisions in society. Overall standards are shown to be higher in mixed ability environments therefore the Green Party wants to create a system which facilitates and encourages greater integration.
ED125 We will continue to aim for all community schools to provide everyone with an education which will fit everyone’s individual needs through a diverse curriculum which offers choice and is appropriate for everyone’s needs and ability. (See Curriculum) However, we recognise that some people will still want to be educated outside mainstream schools.
ED126 The Green Party will offer a programme of voluntary assimilation of private schools into the state sector. Key to this is the provision of more funding to state schools to facilitate a higher standard, for example through enabling smaller class sizes and more individual learning. This will make state schools more attractive both to pupils, parents and teachers.
ED127 Schools which remain in the private sector would be classed as a business and have all charitable status removed; they would pay all relevant taxes such as VAT and Corporation Tax. All state sponsored scholarships would be directed to Local Authorities and remaining private schools would be asked to contribute to a national initial teacher training levy.
ED130 Academies are often introduced to deprived areas as the only chance the school has to attract funding. Buildings and land which belong to the state are leased to a private sponsor or outside body. In the case of an Academy this private sponsor decides what the school’s specialism will be, what the curriculum will be and what wages individual teachers receive. The sponsor does not have to know anything about education yet has the power to make these crucial decisions.
ED131 The sponsor has the power to appoint the Board which appoints the Principal and the Governors. In some academies the parents have the right to vote for as little as one parent governor. This also removes the democratic control by local authorities of institutions that are financed by national and local taxation.
ED132 Academies can often take power away from parents, teachers and pupils regarding how the school is run. As with Specialist Schools the funding being offered can only be spent on certain things, for example in the case of an Academy the money is released for a new building so the school cannot choose to have a cheaper building or retro-fit existing buildings instead and spend the remaining money on, for example, more teachers.
ED134 In the short term, where Academies are in operation, we would instigate a maximum 25% voting rights for sponsor appointees to ensure proper democratic and community representation on Academy boards.
Grammar Schools and mixed ability learning
ED140 The grammar school system decides which young people are likely to succeed academically when they are only 11 years old with a single test which many consider to be a poor indicator of ability and skills. For those who fail this can take opportunities away from them and cause them to lose confidence in their abilities at an age when they are only just beginning to explore learning. The system can also cause social divisions. Evidence shows that the overall standard of achievement is higher where people are educated in mixed ability environments.
ED151 Too often parents exercise this choice as a result of negative experiences such as children experiencing bullying, feeling restricted by the curriculum or intimidated by large schools and class sizes. The Green Party’s reform of the education system would alleviate many of these issues.
ED152 Where parents still choose to educate their children at home this would be supported by Local Authorities which would work to ensure that all young people have a broad and diverse education of a high quality.
Inclusion and Special Needs
ED160 There are many positive benefits for everyone in being educated alongside people with a variety of needs and abilities and this will lead to a more integrated society. The Green Party supports the principle of offering all people the opportunity to be educated in a mainstream school, and meeting everyone’s needs, whatever the level of need may be, in accordance with the UK Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
ED161 In exceptional cases it is not appropriate to be fully integrated into mainstream education for all subjects, for example where there are multiple learning difficulties. There are children with behavioural difficulties and emotional difficulties who need to be protected by temporary separation. In the longer term the Green Party hopes to address this through having special resource units in mainstream schools.
ED162 Every disabled learner will have an entitlement to an assessment of his / her learning needs. This will identify equipment and facilities required, curriculum differentiation and learning styles, and any educational professional and personal assistance that is needed
ED163 In addition to Special Needs Coordinators, schools will employ appropriate professionals such as counsellors. They will provide support and, if appropriate, early diagnosis for young people with mental health needs or behavioural problems. Where behaviour is preventing someone from learning they will be supported with an Individual Learning Plan which may include activities outside the school environment whilst still remaining on the school roll, including working with their families and within their local communities.
ED165 There will be a programme to increase the capacity of all mainstream schools to include disabled children which underpins the UN Convention for Persons with Disabilities. Ultimately some special schools may continue to exist. This will include schools for extremely gifted and talented students, for example specialist music schools, dance schools and sports colleges. Whether to attend a mainstream or a special needs school is a very sensitive decision and will be taken by the parent and young person together with the advice of a special needs coordinator.
ED170 Education should include a celebration and recognition of religious and cultural diversity and spirituality. Education should encourage critical engagement with, and non-dogmatic exposure to, diverse, sometimes competing, worldviews and beliefs - whether based on culture, religion or spirituality.
ED171 Within that framework the Green Party recognises the right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
ED173 We will seek to cater for these rights and needs through ensuring that children and young people can practise their faith in schools, for example by providing prayer space for those who need or wish to practise their religion regularly.
ED174 At the same time we will abolish the requirement for a compulsory daily act of worship. Schools which choose to continue to hold acts of worship will provide an alternative activity for learners who choose not to take part. Pupils who do not participate in worship will not suffer any form of discrimination.
ED176 No publicly-funded school shall be run by a religious organisation. Schools may teach about religions, comparing examples which originated in each continent, but are prohibited from delivering religious instruction in any form or encouraging adherence to any particular religious belief.
ED177 Privately-funded schools run by religious organisations must reflect the inclusive nature of British society and become part of the Local authority admissions system. This non-discriminatory approach will be extended to staff who must not be discriminated against in faith schools due to their own faith either in seeking employment or during employment.
Health in Schools
ED180 Schools and teachers will continue to have a duty of care towards young people. Whilst we recognise that parents are likely to have a significant influence on their child‘s personal development, it is very important to promote this through the school, as outlined in the Curriculum section.
ED182 As part of their duty of care schools will have strong and effective anti-bullying policies which will recognise the vulnerabilities of children from different backgrounds to the majority of pupils or who are LGBTI or have learning disabilities.
ED190 It will be a minimum requirement that all children are provided free of charge with a balanced nutritious lunch including local and organic non-GM food, free from additives. Vegetarian, vegan, religious and other dietary requirements will be catered for. Vending machines will only supply healthy snacks and not crisps, carbonated drinks and sweets. Schools will be encouraged to involve children in growing, preparing and cooking food. Not only will this provide invaluable and essential education in the importance of a good diet, but evidence shows it will greatly improve behaviour, quality of life and learning.
ED200 Schools will undertake an energy audit of the school and demonstrate, annually, how they are reducing their carbon footprint and contributing to sustainability locally. They will provide environmental education through academic and practical work. This will include encouraging children to attend their local community school so they are within walking distance in urban areas. Schools will be required to provide their own recycling and compost facilities. In this time of rising energy prices schools will be provided with grants to retro-fit their buildings with insulation and install solar panels, solar water heating, be well insulated and where appropriate have wind turbines. They will also have rainwater and grey-water flushing systems. This is particularly important in schools so that young people accept and expect these as part of normal daily life.
Post-16 and Further Education
ED221 The Green Party believes that Further Education colleges should be publicly owned by Local Authorities and funded at the same rate as secondary schools and be subject to the same requirements as schools regarding sustainability, environmental education and health.
ED222 Further Education will be accessible to people of all ages and offer a wide range of practical, vocational and academic courses and qualifications. In Wales, where demand is clear this will include proper provision of Welsh-medium courses within further education colleges.
ED230 As a Green government will be working towards sustainable living and not consumption-led growth, Higher Education, like schools and colleges, will need to change to reflect the kinds of knowledge, skills and vision that are needed. Our society will need people to be educated to the highest level of which they are capable.
ED232 Higher Education is essential in developing a civilized society. Education should continue to be treated as a process and not a product. It should enable a democratisation of knowledge and skills which are available to anyone who wants to study for a degree regardless of their age or background.
ED233 Higher Education is facing a funding crisis. Departments are closing, students are being forced to pay increasing fees for their education, lecturers are working longer hours and receiving worsening pay and conditions and the student to tutor ratio is increasing.
ED234 Under a Green government there would be no student loans as there would be no tuition fees and living costs would be met by Citizen’s Income. In the short term we will reintroduce student grants to meet living costs.
ED235 Due to the nature of the economic growth we have been experiencing there has been a shift in recent years away from manufacture and industry-related subjects. Whilst trends in the subjects students choose to study will continue to evolve there will be sufficient funding to protect minority subjects and to cater for potential swings back.
ED239 Higher Education will offer real support to mature students and students with families. There will be a minimum requirement for Universities and Higher Education Institutions to offer a free crèche to students and staff, nappy changing and breast-feeding facilities as well as religious facilities such as prayer spaces to cater for people from a wide range of ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds.
ED240 Accessibility will be addressed through a combination of these institutions offering Widening Participation Programmes and creating a series of firm targets which will ensure increased social diversity.
ED243 The Green Party recognises that under the current system the ability of students transferring from school or Further Education to Higher Education is extremely diverse, sometimes depending on their social background or the school / college they attended.
ED244 Until this is no longer the case, in order to ensure full accessibility and high standards, institutions will be funded to offer an externally accredited Access Courses to students they consider to have the potential to study at a Higher Level but who are not yet ready for it.
ED245 Currently many Higher Education Institutions are dependent on international students due to the inflated fees they pay. In some cases this can lead them to accept international students who are less able than EU students who they reject.
ED246 Under a Green Government Higher Education Institutions will be properly funded by the state so that where international students are fee-paying the amount the institution charges will more accurately reflect the true cost.
ED247 At the same time schemes would be set up to provide funding both for places for less wealthy students from developing countries and at the same time to develop Higher Education in developing countries through partnership projects so that in the longer term they will not need to travel. Subject areas where there is a shortage of skills in that particular country (for example Medicine and Engineering) will be prioritised.
Lifelong Learning (including Learning in the workplace and Retraining)
ED262 There should be funded opportunities to study at any level at any stage of life. This is essential for the 21st century; it may be done increasingly on-line, but with local centres for study support groups and face-to-face meetings with tutors.
ED264 There will be a minimum requirement to provide free education for adults to learn essential literacy, numeracy and life skills including Parenting programmes, and to acquire skills and qualifications which will help them directly gain employment. This will include provision for distance and e-learning, following models such as that of the Open University.
ED265 Adult education should embrace and encourage learning for learning’s sake and as such funding for additional courses will be decided at a local level, without it having to be target-driven and focused only on qualifications.
Education chapter updates:
Autumn 2011 ED222 & ED041g