Five missing priorities from the manifestos

Whoever comes into power next month, there are a number of key priorities that need to be added to the in-tray of the new cabinet.

1. A child poverty strategy

Figures from the Child Poverty Action Group suggest that there are currently 4.3 million children living in poverty in the UK – this equates to 9 children out of an average class of 30. Clearly this requires urgent attention and a joined-up approach to address both the causes and consequences of poverty. Schools have increasingly needed to become frontline services supporting families living in deprivation, without the resources to enable them to do this. Children living in poverty consistently underperform in comparison to more advantaged peers and this achievement gap cannot be addressed by schools in isolation.

2. The ‘how’ of teacher recruitment

The need for greater recruitment and retention is recognised in manifestos, along with commitments to increase the teaching workforce. How this will be done is much less clear. There are substantial underlying issues, for example around pay and conditions, flexible working, workload and the public profile of the profession which need to be properly considered.


The SEND system needs substantial review and adequate funding. The issues in the current system are seen in huge waiting lists for assessment and support, the inability of schools to meet needs due to funding restrictions and lack of access to specialist services, plus there are increasingly limited numbers of places available in the special school sector. There is a clear correlation between the increasing issues in the SEND system and pupil absence and the growing number of pupils being home educated.

4. 16-19 education

Further Education gets very limited attention in the manifestos but is a key area for consideration. With BTECs still due to be defunded, the post-16 options will be significantly reduced. T-levels are far less widely available, providing difficult for schools and many sixth form colleges to introduce. This needs urgent consideration if post-16 participation is to be maintained – and reduced engagement at 16-19 would also have a significant impact on higher education.

5. Funding

Whilst some may argue that money isn’t the answer to everything, it is certainly the answer to some things. Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that even with increased spending on education in recent years, schools have experienced a 9% budget cut in real terms since 2010 and for many sixth form colleges this is more like 14%. Many of the priorities outlined above could be addressed, at least in part, were schools and colleges adequately funded.

Let us know your views on the manifestos and challenges for the next government in the comments box below.

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