Ross Sargent, parent and governor, early years centre, Cambridgeshire
All the evidence suggests the more funding the better at the early years stages, and that represents the greatest return on investment. So the first thing has to be a promise not to cut in early years. I would love to see the people who are genuinely experts in education in charge of what goes into our kids’ education – it doesn’t feel that way now – and the focus placed on the importance of teachers so they have the time to plan properly.
Alex Pearson, assistant head, the Homerton Early Years Centre, Cambridge
The main thing for us is to be given a longer guarantee for being kept open. We were given three years or the life of the government. The life of the government is now rather short so we hope it’s longer than that. But we would also like the guarantee of survival beyond 2020 so we can plan. We want some kind of commitment that early years education is valued and that there will be funding for it.
Then, maintaining teachers at foundation stage, both in nurseries and reception classes, so the emphasis is firmly placed on education and not just on care; a decent level of funding to support the delivery of 30 hours of childcare, so that it is workable for all; and funding for Sure Start and children’s centres to offer early intervention.
Also, valuing a play-based early years curriculum and doing what other countries do, which isn’t children jumping in at four and learning to read and write.
Martin Clutterbuck, head, Coombe Hill junior school, Kingston
I am looking for the party that will address our recruitment and retention crisis, build more key worker housing, provide mortgage support – and make it possible for teachers to remain in the schools and areas they love, in communities that need them.
I would like to see a promise to fund schools properly, reversing the increase in employers’ contributions to the teachers’ pension scheme and national insurance. We need a government that will relieve schools of the responsibility of unfunded pay rises and remove the anomaly that means local authority schools have to pay an apprenticeship levy when many academies do not. We need a fair funding strategy that restores the budgets to 2012 levels and does not just redistribute the same diminishing pot from one needy area to another.
And I would vote for a party that puts creativity and the arts in the centre of the primary curriculum alongside science, languages and our core curriculum.
Vic Goddard, head, Passmores academy, Essex
There are only three things that need to be firm commitments by all parties. No 1: we need crystal clear pledges that the government will invest in ensuring there is an adequate supply of suitably trained teachers in front of our students. This will need a re-engagement with higher education to create the additional teachers required.
No 2: our young people deserve environments to study in that are warm, safe and help the learning process. The state of school buildings needs to be honestly audited and the capital costs factored in to ensure this basic entitlement is met.
No 3: we cannot achieve what any government, parent or young person wishes without being adequately funded. Any government needs to accept that expecting schools to continue to raise standards with less and less resources is impossible. Education has to be seen as an investment not a burden.
Keziah Featherstone, head, Bridge Learning Campus, Bristol
Every party should be prioritising teacher recruitment and retention. The government has missed its targets for training new teachers for several years. That, plus the relentless changes introduced to the curriculum, testing, and new GCSEs has led to a situation where heads are struggling to retain staff. We have more students than ever before, with more complex issues and a lot less money.
We urgently need a strategic policy to attract and retain high quality graduates into teaching – and there are far fewer graduates prepared to take on yet more debt by training for another year. I think the state needs to train state teachers. We need a fully diverse and representative cohort of professionals for children to look up to and be inspired by.
Madeleine Holt, founder, Meet the Parents, lobbying people to support local state schools
I would like to see a political party put forward an overarching vision for an education system that’s fit for the 21st century. I don’t think any party has offered this kind of big thinking since 1997 and the mantra from Tony Blair of “education, education, education”.
Here is my wish list: a commitment to proper funding and to working towards a fully comprehensive education system because the most successful systems internationally have no selection; an end to rigidly linking test and exam scores to school accountability because it is turning schools into joyless workhouses instead of places of genuine learning; and an independent commission that looks at the most effective ways of nurturing a creative and questioning generation of young people because these are the attributes they will need in an increasingly automated job market.
John Tomsett, head, Huntington school, York
Underpinning the future success of our schools is sufficient funding. The government says we’ve never spent more on schools but the only reason that is true is because we have more children in the system than ever before. Costs are rising. The Institute of Fiscal Studies points out that school budgets will be cut by 8% in real terms by 2020. Post-16 funding, capital funding, high needs, mental health services – all these matter hugely and all have been cut dramatically over the last few years. If we don’t fund schools properly, rising class sizes and bigger teaching loads will make teaching as a career less and less attractive. So, fund schools sufficiently, and guarantee three-year inflation-proof budgets. Then we might have a chance of creating the school system our young people deserve.
Sally Thorne, head of history at a Bristol secondary school
I hope they pledge to keep the curriculum static for a few years, increase per-pupil funding in real terms – or at least keep it in line with inflation – and shelve grammar schools, in line with advice from seemingly everyone apart from the Conservative party.
David Boyle, principal, Dunraven School, a 4-18 national teaching school, London
Any manifesto commitment that would align the interest of the student with the interest of the school would be fine, so that a school is able to offer the kind of curriculum its children would benefit from. For example, no expectation of the EBacc for all. And the ability to offer something vocational.
We want a national fair funding formula where no school loses funding; an end to increases in ring-fenced funding so schools are able to make use of all the resources they have; and capital projects funded appropriately – providing new places where they are required and maintaining the current state of buildings. We also want an end to the ridiculous move to reinstate grammar school education.
Tim Gartside, head, Altrincham grammar school for boys
First, a commitment on school funding to a minimum level for all schools – about £4,600 per pupil. Then, a review of funding for pupil premium and disadvantaged pupils because very large sums are going into the pupil premium and I’m not totally convinced the money is being used as effectively as it could be. Also, a restatement of the government’s commitment to establishing grammar schools in areas where they might be of benefit – in perhaps urban and more disadvantaged areas.
Shakira Martin, vice-president, further education, National Union of Students
I want the needs of students to be seen as equally important to the needs of employers when it comes to deciding the direction of further education. To make FE work for all there should be high quality local transport with discounts for all learners, including apprentices, so people can access the education they want. So much money has been taken from the further education sector. It’s time for some serious investment. Also, it’s time for all parties to commit to investing in proper mental health provision for young people.
William Baldwin, principal, Brighton, Hove and Sussex sixth-form college
My concern is that schools have been fighting funding pressures for over a decade. I don’t think the post-16 sector is going to get its voice heard.
I want a commitment to increase base-rate funding per student to at least match inflationary costs. Jeremy Corbyn has said austerity has failed, and most public sector workers would agree. So let’s look at different models. If there is investment in terms of school and college buildings, that will create jobs and put money into the economy. With the curriculum, I just want stability. I’m also not convinced a three A-level programme is an internationally competitive curriculum for a full-time student; it lacks breadth and the development of key employability skills.
Claire Callender, professor of higher education policy, Birkbeck, University of London
The focus of this election will be on Brexit. So my hope is that we can get a socially just Brexit deal, for the country and for the university sector. This would mean the government securing continuing access to EU research funds as equal partners, and the permanent free movement of academics and students between the UK and the EU. Such promises would help to ensure the vibrancy and global strength of the UK higher education sector in the long term.
Paul Wakeling, sociologist of education, University of York
For schools: abandonment of plans for new grammar schools and no further changes to institutional form; fair and proportional per capita funding, with a carefully planned transition for schools facing reductions; a return to planned, university-led teacher training; a reduction in targets and testing in favour of an approach that values teachers as partners rather than seeing them as the enemy.
For further education, this would be my priority: a substantial increase in funding and an end to tinkering with the form of qualifications and bland repetition of the “parity of esteem” trope.
For higher education: restore maintenance grants and overturn the recent changes to funding for student nurses; no further increases in undergraduate tuition fees beyond inflation; scrap selling off the student loan book; ditch the Teaching Excellence Framework; remove international students from migration targets.
Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor, University of Buckingham
First is the promise to set up a national headship college that trains school leaders, because that’s the most important problem in education at the moment – the quality of leadership.
In higher education, the Teaching Excellence Framework was long overdue but the metrics need to be improved so there is more focus on learning and student feedback on the quality of their teachers. There also needs to be much more support for the not-for-profit private sector. Then, the government needs to take the wellbeing of students and staff much more seriously, because we have an absolute mental health crisis in universities.
Martin McQuillan, deputy vice-chancellor, research and innovation, Kingston university
The reality of this election will be that it is one possible political event that could put the brakes on Brexit. The Liberal Democrats ought to promise a second referendum. Labour should do the same; they need to do something to disrupt the logic of the polls that suggest a heavy electoral defeat. Some university leaders feel burned after the experience of being seen to be on the wrong side of public opinion after the EU referendum. They will be torn between not wanting to antagonise a seemingly inevitable Conservative government and knowing that this might be the last chance to influence the Brexit debate.
Henry Riley, president, Warwick University politics society
I think for young people the big issue is going to be Brexit. I’d be supporting a party that is going to stop and think and scrutinise what the government is doing on that.
I wouldn’t want the sudden abolition of tuition fees. I don’t think it’s feasible. But I wouldn’t vote for a party that put fees up. I think £9,000 is high enough.
I would also want a guarantee that we can still get funding for European projects. Within universities I don’t think there’s a problem, really, with teaching standards – or not that I’ve experienced. Generally among students there’s a feeling that the Tories have done so much damage that we’ve got to get them out. But I’ve actually put a bet on Labour getting its worst result since 1935 – that would mean under 154 seats.
Peter Horrocks, vice-chancellor, Open University
We need to develop a long-term skills strategy, encouraging people to study part-time to top up their skills, and to support that study with innovative financial structures such as personal learning accounts. There has been a serious drop in the number of part-time and mature learners, and that represents a tragedy of lost opportunity for tens of thousands of would-be students. We cannot allow lifelong learning to become a convenient buzz phrase to capture vague political aspirations. I would challenge politicians of all parties to make a meaningful commitment to continuous adult education.