A Liberal Party Policy Statement
policy is designed as a lifelong process to maximize the capability
and self-fulfilment of individuals, thereby maximising their full potential,
and enriching their lives, together with that of the community of which
each is a part.
believe that education should be seen as a form of empowerment rather
than as something that is done to the learner, and be regarded as an
on going entitlement, with access not restricted by age.
belief in the concept of community and the freedom of the individual
- a) the
differing advantages of small and large schools can be brought together
by structuring the system to provide schools organised on a collegiate
basis, with the aim of sharing facilities and providing a wider range
of courses, in particular the utilisation of new technology;
- b) many
areas have diverse needs and cultures and there are many poor and
disadvantaged communities requiring additional help to ensure they
receive a fair education;
- c) while
Liberals support an education system developed along comprehensive
lines, the local community must be left to decide what sort of schools
are best for them, and the mix of subjects to be taught.
- d) small
community schools, with relevant shared resources, are preferable
to large impersonal institutions;
Local Management of Schools (LMS)
Party believes that, as presently organised, the system is not working.
There is a shortage of governors with the necessary skills and time
to spare on a voluntary basis; budget constraints are leading to the
recruitment of probationers in preference to experienced teachers; funds
are not sufficient for the refurbishment of deteriorating buildings;
and valuable teacher time is absorbed in administration and management
tasks for which the teachers are mostly untrained.
we consider that some decisions are most appropriately made in each
local school. Accordingly we call for a radical reform of the LMS rules
capital investment programme to address the issue of old and neglected
responsibility for the staffing structure and pay scales, but not
recruitment, to local education authorities;
introduction of management training programmes for teachers and governors,
sourced at local level to enable schools to choose courses appropriate
to their particular needs;
removal of the element of competition between schools which works
through the use of a funding formula related to pupil numbers.
The interests of pupils can best be served by schools funded and supported
by Local Education Authorities, that the role of the LEA should be an
“enabling” role, and that no schools should be allowed to “opt
out” of LEA control.
of regulations currently restricted to the work place should also be
extend to educational establishments. An extensive programme of refurbishment
and replacement of many of our decrepit school buildings is urgently
needed which will further create opportunities for community facilities
and adoption of new, energy saving building techniques.
The National Curriculum, Ofsted and SATS
oppose the principle of a national curriculum, believing it to be a
of power in the hands of the Secretary of State for Education.
- the National Curriculum should be replaced with a framework
on which local authorities and schools can build to best meet the
needs of the pupils within their jurisdiction;
- older pupils should be offered a wider choice of subjects
and choice from a greater diversity of topics within subjects;
- testing should be reduced to a necessary minimum in order
to remove unnecessary pressure on pupils and staff and to reduce the
current waste of time and resources on such testing;
- the whole package of Ofsted, Sats and league tables
should be abolished forthwith;
- there must be greater involvement of teaching staff, governors,
parents and the local community in the planning and delivery of a
curriculum which is relevant to the needs of the children, and in
the actual management of schools;
investment in teaching staff and facilities is vital for the future
of our schools and Liberals envisage that extra funds will be required
for the payment of teachers and for equipment.
a need act to improve the morale of teaching staff. We believe this
could be best achieved by the creation of an independent review body
which would introduce a unified structure for salaries and career grades
to reflect the importance we attach to education. Contracts of employment
guaranteeing academic freedom should be introduced for all teachers
and lecturers, together with a system of appraisal, developed in consultation
with the profession, to improve the calibre of teaching.
Liberals call for the rapid expansion of nursery education, not so
much as an aid to working parents, but more in response to the social
education needs of the children themselves, for whom such provision
lays a good foundation for all that may follow. We feel it is useful
to have nursery provision on the same site as infant schools so as to
promote an easy transition to the latter.
Pre School Education
Liberals are concerned by recent research undertaken in this country
and in the USA which indicates that teaching 4-6 years olds to read
and write and master simple arithmetic may be damaging and counter-productive;
may permanently disadvantage as many as one third of our children and
may explain our declining educational performance relative to other
countries, the escalating gender gap in education and a rising numbers
of disaffected young males, especially in deprived areas. Liberals consider
that the National Curriculum and its pre-occupation with achieving numeracy
and literacy at the earliest possible age could be making matters worse.
Accordingly, we propose a comprehensive and urgent study into the concept
of Pre-school education for 3-5 year olds in which children
are taught attention listening and memory skills, appropriate group
behaviour, conceptual understanding and phonological and motor skills.
Liberals note that this approach, otherwise known as the Central
European Model, does not educate children, rather it prepares
them for education, and evidence of its working in Hungary, Switzerland,
Belgium, Japan, Taiwan and Korea suggests a low rate of disaffection
in the later stages of formal primary education and a more comprehensive
grasp of literacy and numeracy.
Primary and Secondary education
It is vital
that primary and secondary education have the resources they need, since,
unless our children are taught the basic educational and social skills
during their formative years, monies spent on further education without
that bedrock of learning will be wasted.
believe there should be an emphasis on numeracy and literacy in early
believe that there should be a legal maximum of thirty pupils per class.
believe that consultation with school students has been haphazard or
neglected. One of the aims of a Liberal education policy is to give
pupils more choice of subjects and of topics within subjects and at
a younger age. Liberals therefore call for the establishment of elected
student councils in secondary schools with rights to consultation on
such matters as uniform, meals, start, finish and break times, and bullying.
Further and Higher education
believe that open access to further and higher education is a vital
sign of a healthy society and that education should be a lifelong process
and not regarded as being only for the young. Indeed, in the overwhelming
majority of cases further and higher education is not seen by students
as an optional extra but as vital in the achievement of their full potential.
these aims, Liberals call for:
- the restoration of student grants to a basic living wage
- the adoption throughout the UK of a credit accumulation
scheme, similar to that which applies in Scotland, so that it is possible
for those whose studies are interrupted to continue them later, not
necessarily at the same institution;
- more access courses for those who lack the standard entry qualifications;
- more use of modular degree course structures which allow students
a greater choice and assist those who find new areas of interest after
they have enrolled on a course;
- incentives and encouragement for businesses to contribute the
time of some of their experienced and qualified staff to provide adult
and further education classes;
- enhancement of the facilities and resources of the new universities
created in 1992 from former polytechnics;
- increased government funding for the Open University, Open
Tech and the University of the Third Age;
- tertiary education available for all 16-19 year olds, including
vocational, technical and academic courses, which would provide a
sound base for either future employment or entry into higher and further
- a two year training allowance and entitlement should accompany
young people entering employment at the age of 16, 17 or 18 years;
- the idea of a National Grid for Learning, using modern technology
to make information resources accessible to all, should be progressed;
- “learning accounts”, under the control of the individual
but with contributions also from the government and employers, are
an exciting innovation;
- local employers should be encouraged to contribute (including
financially) to adult and further education where this can be done
without compromise to educational objectives;
We further believe that universities and other institutions of further
education should work more closely together. Liberals would support
a “Higher Education Council” to coordinate this activity,
examine policy, commission studies and make proposals.
believe that the serious decline in students taking science and engineering
courses is caused by social and economic factors outside education and,
therefore, the problem can only be solved by improving the status, pay
and working conditions of engineers and scientists.
The needs of Students
We abhor the concept of student loans. Under the Liberal Party’s
Tax Credit System students should receive an adequate income which should
supersede both grants and loans. This income should be at least equal
to the income that would be received by those registered unemployed,
with the addition of a special allowance to cover the costs of study
materials and transport. In particular we note the current lack of adequate
support for part-time and disabled students. We favour a less rigid
approach to post-16 education and training to allow for “time out”,
and for the proper funding and provision of courses for the less academically
able, the educationally disaffected, and for those who need alternative
approaches to education and training.
believe that, as with medicine, the private sector has little relevance
to most people but can be rendered redundant, not by crushing it with
laws and tax penalties, but by bringing the public service up to a higher
standard, as part of the local community that people would want their
children to be part of. We do not, however, believe that private sector
schools should be able to claim charitable status and that with the
exception of schools which make no distinction on the grounds of ability
to pay in their entrance policies, or those such as choir or special
schools providing a service not available in the state sector, the ability
of private sector schools to claim charitable status should be removed.
The school inspection processes should be the same for private education
establishments as for LEA and Grant Maintained Schools.
values of a Liberal society are inimical to the privilege that private
education seeks to buy.