Election 2024

Conservatives manifesto 2024: All the schools policies

13 new policies include protecting school spending in real-terms and mandating phone bans guidance and PE hours

13 new policies include protecting school spending in real-terms and mandating phone bans guidance and PE hours

The Conservatives have pledged to protect “day-to-day schools spending in real-terms per pupil” and legislate to ban mobile phones from classrooms if they win the election.

Rishi Sunak today launched his party’s “bold” election manifesto. However many of the school’s policies are not new, such as the Advanced British Standard (ABS) qualifications reform.

Despite the pledge to protect per-pupil spending in real-terms, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in a scathing assessment that doing so could allow government to save £3.5 billion on the overall schools budget, because of falling pupil numbers.

However, schools’ costs are rising at a higher rate than inflation, and savings “may be difficult to realise in practice”.

The prime minister also pledged to legislate to force schools to follow its guidance on banning mobile phones and supporting gender-questioning children. The party would mandate two hours of PE every week in primary and secondary schools.

Speaking at the launch, education secretary Gillian Keegan said Sunak’s education policies would give young people “the best chance in life”.

Sunak added his plans will “build on the success” of education reforms. Introducing the ABS “will enable our young people to receive a broader education and breakdown the split between technical and academic education that has held our country back”.

He said the Conservatives have “improved in our schools”.

“Thanks to Michael [Gove’s] reforms and a generation of inspiring teachers, English school children are not just the best readers in the UK, they are the best in the western world.”

The new pledges

  • Protect day-to-day schools spending in real terms per pupil over the next Parliament
  • 15 new special free schools, on top of the 15 announced at the recent budget
  • Require schools to follow guidance on banning the use of mobile phones during the school day
  • Legislate to “ensure schools must follow our guidance for teachers on how best to support gender questioning students in schools and colleges”
  • Mandate two hours of PE every week in primary and secondary schools
  • Extend the PE and sport premium to secondary schools
  • Increase funding for school games organisers to get more competitive sport into and between schools
  • Work with sporting bodies to create more UK-wide school competitions like National Finals, to identify the best sporting talents
  • Deliver new legislation “which will make clear, beyond all doubt, that parents have a right to see what their child is being taught in school and schools must share all materials, especially on sensitive matters like relationships and sex education”
  • Expand coverage of mental health support teams from 50 to 100 per cent of schools and colleges in England by 2030
  • Ban protests outside schools
  • Support teachers to “uphold and promote fundamental British values and ensure they are protected from accusations of blasphemy”
  • Work with Active Travel England to make it safer for people to walk or cycle, ensuring “safe walking routes to schools and measures to protect pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users”, but only if schemes have “local support”

Pledges that already existed

  • Expand strong academy trusts
  • Deliver 60,000 more SEND places, including special school expansions and in mainstream schools
  • Lift the 50 per cent admissions cap on faith free schools
  • Introduce the Advanced British Standard to replace A-levels and T-levels
  • Legislate to create a register of children not in school
  • Allocate almost £3 billion next year via the pupil premium to support disadvantaged children to reach their full potential (the increase would have happened anyway due to rising numbers of pupils on free school meals)
  • Attract more talented teachers by expanding the recruitment and retention premium and reducing workload. The extended levelling-up premium offers new shortage subject teachers in priority areas up to £30,000 over five years
  • Support teachers to use “tried and tested techniques, including our world-leading phonics programme and our mastery approach to maths”
  • Support children in their transition to secondary school and ensure they “continue to receive a broad and enriched education during and after-school, including via our multi-million pound music hubs”
  • Continue to work with schools and local authorities to improve school attendance
  • “Back Ofsted” to provide clear judgments to parents on the quality and safety of schools
  • Rebuild over 500 schools
  • Rebuild or refurbish every school identified to have RAAC
  • “Further protect parents’ choice on where to send their child to school, including preserving the rights of independent and grammar schools”

What do leaders say?

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, called the manifesto a “collection of recycled policies with nothing new to say about how the Conservatives would deal with the shortage of funding, teachers and the crisis in special educational needs provision”.

The pledge to protect day-to-day school spending in real terms per pupil “is the bare minimum”, he added, and said the party had “once again insinuated that schools are sharing inappropriate materials in sex education and over gender identity”.

“We have not seen evidence to support this claim and it seems to us to be largely political posturing.”

The mandatory PE time is “top-down policymaking without looking at the pressures on school time and the curriculum caused by a huge range of expectations, underfunding and staff shortages”.

How much will it all cost?

A costings document published alongside the manifesto does not individually cost most of the policies.

It estimates creating 15 new special free schools will cost around £250 million. Extending the PE and sports premium to secondary schools and funding school games organisers will cost £125 million a year.

These costs are “offset by delivery of the savings identified” in government rail reform plans.

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