Labour’s school policy blitz: What we know so far (and what we don’t)

Sir Keir Starmer to deliver 'major speech' after education named among top 'missions' for Labour government

Sir Keir Starmer to deliver 'major speech' after education named among top 'missions' for Labour government

Labour has announced a series of education policies ahead of a “major speech” on the subject by Sir Keir Starmer later this week.

The party said earlier this year that education would be one of the Labour leader’s five “missions” that will shape its manifesto and the party’s focus if it gains power.

It pledged to “break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage, for every child, by reforming the childcare and education systems, raising standards everywhere, and preparing young people for work and life”.

Labour has said its proposals will embed “world-class teaching for every child” and drive “high and rising standards”.

Here’s what we know about all the policies announced so far. This story will be updated as we hear more about the announcements.

1. £2,400 retention bonus for early career teachers

Labour has pledged to create a new retention payment for those who complete the two-year early career framework.

The party said this would be used “specifically to combat the trend of early leavers among the teaching profession, as data shows one in five teachers leave within two years”. 

The policy is estimated to cost £56 million a year, which Labour said would come from tax proceeds from ending private schools’ charitable status.

However, some have asked what the party plans to do to retain more experienced staff, amid concerns some could just take the money after two years and leave the profession anyway.

Over a third of teachers now leave the profession within six years of qualifying.

2. QTS for all teachers

The party has said it will also reinstate the requirement that teachers either have qualified teacher status or be working towards it, which was scrapped for academies by Michael Gove in 2012.

Government data shows that as of January, there were 12,739 unqualified teachers in England’s state schools.

The reinstated requirement would only apply to new entrants to the profession, however, and not to those already working in it.

3. ‘Simplification’ of teacher incentives

Labour also wants to “simplify the complex current network of teacher retention incentive payment funds into one single framework”.

At present there are bursaries and scholarships in certain shortage subjects, a separate system of retention payments in some parts of England and another legacy scheme that pays off some teachers’ student loans every year they work in the profession.

However no further details of how the simplified framework would work have been released.

4. ‘Reform’ of the early career framework

Bridget Phillipson
Bridget Phillipson

In comments issued over the weekend, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said her party would “reform the early career framework to ensure that every classroom has a world-class teacher”.

However, the party has released no further details of what it actually thinks needs to change.

Studies have suggested workload is a big barrier to the extra training and development provided to new teachers as part of the two-year scheme.

5. New regional ‘school improvement teams’

Labour pledged today to create new regional improvement teams to “end the scandal of ‘stuck’ schools as part of Labour’s mission to break down barriers to opportunity”.

These teams, which will answer to the DfE’s regions group, will “work as partners with schools in responding to areas of weakness identified in new school report cards”, which Labour has said will replace graded Ofsted judgments.

The party said the teams would “bring together oversight of improvement programmes and work with teachers so that schools know what support is available and enable schools to work together to improve standards”.

However, no further details have been released. Schools Week has asked Labour who would form these teams, what their experience requirements would be and for more detail on how they will work with schools.

Steve Rollett, from the Confederation of School Trusts, questioned where accountability would “rest within this approach”.

“What if actions are not taken? What if the actions suggested are the wrong ones? Where does evidence fit into this approach?”

6. Regions group here to stay?

For years, Labour has dodged the question of whether the current system for oversight of schools in government will remain in place if they take power.

Regional schools commissioners recently became DfE “regional directors”, with each having responsibility for one of nine English regions.

Today’s announcement that new school improvement teams will answer to regional directors suggests they are here to stay – but it’s not clear how much their roles will change under a Labour government.

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  1. Mr A Broster

    You should also scrap academy’s, which are nothing more than cash-cows for unqualified so called CEOs to fleece the public purse and give their ‘mates’ undeserved director roles and pay them extortionate salaries without being accountable. CEOs that earn more than the prime minister!
    This is money that should be spent on educating our children, not paying for lavish lifestyles of these people. I resigned my post 2 years after our school became an academy as I was disgusted at the way my head had given himself a 50% payrise and promoted several staff in to created posts, without interview, at huge salaries. Hope the Labour Party has the balls to sort this out.

    • Angela Smith

      I totally agree with the above post. Its shocking what CEO/Headteachers get payed and the treatment of their staff has become even more demanding. it appears they have no accountability.

      • Sadly Old New Labour created them & New New Labour will carry on the debacle. We need to completely overhaul our education system which is currently not fit for purpose. The abolition of the old grammar/secondary modern system has had a devastating effect on parental standards. It’s a long way back now.

  2. Alison

    Fantastic, as usual no mention at all about school support staff who are also leaving the profession in droves and are harder and harder to replace. We make up at least 50% of the staff in schools and are massively underpaid, undervalued and in many schools frankly exploited.
    To not even mention support staff is incredibly demoralising.

  3. Alan Price

    Too much money wasted on Academy Principles – when teachers are having to pay for classroom resources out there own pockets.

    What about national structures for support staff, these were consisdered by New labour as was raising the status of the teaching profession.

    What about teachers stuck at top of the pay scale – no pay riase for ten years – nearly every teacher in my school has a second job to make ends meet.

    Changes to make the curriculum to introduce more practical subjects, greater focus on vocational routes. This would reduce behaviour issues and improve attendence.

    Flexible working – 4 day week (longer hours each day), ability to take some holiday in term time, its much cheaper, but in return offer holiday clubs in long summer holidays.