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Education policies take centre stage in general election campaign

The main political parties have made headlines with what they have said about their plans for education, but also by what they haven’t said.

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Image Credit: Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

EDUCATION FUNDING pledges have taken a central role in the general election campaign. With three weeks to go until 12 December all of the main political parties have made headlines with what they have said about their plans for education, but also by what they haven’t said.

The Labour Party has, as it did in 2017, stated its commitment to scrapping university tuition fees.The Liberal Democrats are yet to announce a position on university tuition fees, a topic which is controversial for the party given the abandonment of it by students fol-lowing their tuition fees u-turn in 2010. And while Theresa May, as Prime Minister, launched a review into University fees while Prime Minister which recommended that fees should be cut from £9,250 to£7,500 however the i reported that this proposal has apparently been abandoned by the Johnson government.

The noticeable policy announcement of this election cycle has been both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats committing to differing forms of a life-time skills or education fund. The Liberal Democrats have commit-ted £10,000 funding per person which will become available at different ages: £4,000 at the age of 25, £3,000 at 40 and £3,000 at the age of 55. The cost of the programme will be funded by putting corporation tax back up to its previous level of 20 per cent. Their business spokesman said: “By investing in our skills wallets, Liberal Democrats will empower people to develop new skills so that they can thrive in the technologies and industries that are key to the UK’s economic future and prosperity.”

The Labour Party is promising similar action with its so called‘National Education Service’ which forms part of its vision for a from“cradle to grave education service.”It says it will fund six years of free study for all adults. Those six years  do, however, include any under-graduate degree, meaning that fol-lowing graduation students at university would only have three years of free study remaining.

It is not just higher education which has been at the centre of parties pledges. The Conservatives’ have pledged to boost education spending by £14 billion, which would bring education spending per pupil in the UK back to its 2009 level before the era of austerity. The Labour Party has pledged to cut class sizes for five, six and seven year olds. They’ve also pledged to scrap SATs tests, and to open a thousand new Sure Start centres.Sure Start centres offer advice and help for children’s health, parenting, money management and sometimes child care. This pledge comes as an IFS study found that Sure Start centres saved the NHS millions of pounds when properly operated.What is clear to see is that the age of austerity that chancellors Osborne and Hammond promoted is over; the spending taps are being turned on. And with more financial pledges being made every day from different parties on a huge range of issues it is increasingly difficult to keep up.

The think tank The Resolution Foundation concluded that which-ever party won, spending and borrowing would increase substantially. However, the author of the report also warned that: “Whichever party wins are going to face huge questions about how they are going to pay for Britain’s growing state.The fact is that whatever promises are made over the course of this election campaign, taxes are going to have to rise over the coming decade.” However we won’t have the full picture until all the parties re-lease their official manifestos.

Since campaigning started for the next general election over 1.5 million people have applied for voter registration. Nearly 65 per cent of all registrations made were by voters aged under 34 whereas just 4 per cent were from voters who were over 65. However, this paints an incomplete picture, considering that a higher proportion of older people were already registered to vote prior to the election being called. Voter turnout, while important in all elections, is crucial in his election, particularly in swing constituencies and areas where the Leave and Remain votes were close in the 2016 referendum.Students can and are encouraged to register to vote in both their home constituency and their university accommodation constituency. However, students can only vote in one of the constituencies on polling day. Voting in both is a criminal action. Students who are not going to be in the constituency they want to vote in on the 12 December will need to apply for a postal vote by 5pm on the 26 November. The deadline for registering to vote in person is on the 26 November at 11:59pm.

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