Education and improving the life chances of pupils in England is key to ensuring our social and economic success. Yet reform has stagnated for the past two years, and programmes like free schools and academies have lost momentum. A post-Brexit policy agenda must have education at its heart.
New Schools Network has called on the two remaining Conservative Party leadership candidates to sign up to five key education pledges.
1. Education reform at the heart of next Government
The next Conservative Party leader must commit to putting education reform at the front and centre of policy debate. This means:
- a free school in every local authority, so all parents can access the high quality education they provide;
- Restoring financial incentives for the best schools to become academies so that they can sponsor and support struggling schools.
2. 100 new free schools each year
Too few free schools have been approved in our most disadvantaged communities. Building 100 new free schools a year will help to deliver this, particularly in those communities that we know feel they have been left behind. Building new schools shouldn’t just be about meeting basic need for new school places, but ensuring every child has a good school place. That is the only way we will tackle chronic underperformance and spread educational excellence
3. Removing the barriers to opening new schools
One of the biggest barriers to opening new free schools are the barriers to finding a suitable site. In some cases, developers are not doing enough to support new schools, and in other cases local authorities have been actively hostile. Instead of an antagonistic approach to new schools, the next Government must ensure local authorities work closely with free schools to help secure sites
4. A new wave of community led academy trusts
The next Conservative Party leader must commit to ensuring that we cultivate entrepreneurship in the education sector. This means:
- Re-empowering parents, teachers, and community charities to open a free school and establish a new single academy trust;
- Encouraging innovation in the schools system, by placing this at the heart of the free school process;
- Support for existing single academies to grow and share their Outstanding practice.
5. Investment in provision for pupils at risk of gang violence
Currently AP provision is a post code lottery. That needs to change with a commitment to ensuring there are enough AP free schools in every area they are needed. The next Conservative Party leader must invest in delivering more AP free schools and a fairer funding settlement for those schools. This is an integral part of preventing vulnerable children falling out of education and into the hands of gangs.
You can read our education pledges in full here.
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP:
"Free schools have been a fantastic success and something every Conservative should be proud to have delivered. As you point out, they are the highest performing schools and more likely than any other to be rated as Outstanding. If I become Prime Minister, I would do everything I can to support them and I’m delighted to put on record my support for your five asks.
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
"I absolutely agree that education reform must be at the heart of the next Conservative Government and that’s why I’ve already committed to increase school funding.
"As Mayor of London I used the powers of my office to release public land for free schools in London. I believe we must hold true to the spirit of the original education reforms - and that means making sure that the schools in communities that have been left behind, such as those in rural areas, get the proper attention and funding that they need. I am very happy to talk to, and engage with, people who are committed to those values and who believe in improving schools to discuss what else we can do to improve standards across the board. I look forward to working together to make sure we can build a fairer and better education system for everyone."