The general election: what you need to know

The date of the general election is fast approaching on 4 July, and most major parties have now released their manifestos.

These manifestos act as a declaration of intentions, motives and views of the party who issues them.

They only set out policies that have already been announced, although some have inevitably evolved or changed slightly since they were revealed.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the NEU, said that "any new government will need to reverse cuts to education and match the funding levels of other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries in order to boost skills, close equity gaps and deliver the necessary workforce."

He said that the situation has "reached tipping point' and that no incoming government can ignore the problem. 

But what are each of their pledges to education? We know how tedious it can be to trawl through the political quagmire at the moment, so here is a rundown of what you need to know:

The Conservative Party: 'Ban mobile phones in schools'

Most of the Conservative's pledges are not new to this election, but here's a recap of what they said will be set in motion if they are elected.

Rishi Sunak's party has pledged to protect day-to-day schools spending in real-terms per pupil and legislate to ban mobile phones from classrooms.

The party would mandate two hours of physical education every week in primary and secondary schools, as well as working with sporting bodies to create more UK-wide school competitions like National Finals, to identify the best sporting talents.

They have also pledged to create 15 new special free schools, on top of the 15 announced at the recent budget.

Some of the pledges that already exist include rebuilding around 500 schools, lifting the 50 per cent admissions cap on faith free schools, and delivering 60,000 more SEND places.

You can read their full manifesto here.

The Green Party: 'Get rid of Ofsted'

Co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay's Green party manifesto includes plans to spend almost £14 billion more on education, scrap “formal testing” in secondary schools, and abolish Ofsted.

They said any Green MPs elected will also push the government to give all school pupils free school meals, restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for sixth formers and insulate school buildings.

Additionally, their manifesto states they would create a “fully-inclusive” education system with “better-funded support for special educational needs,” as well as ensuring neurodivergent children and those with special needs are adequately supported, including in the school system, to live rich and fulfilling lives.

Amid the cost-of-living crisis, the party has pledged to give all children a daily free school meal, made from nutritious ingredients and based on local and organic or sustainable produce.

One of their more controversial pledges is that they would abolish Ofsted, and end “high-stakes, formal testing” at both primary and secondary schools.

They also said they would make sure youth workers rather than police officers work with pupils in schools.

You can read their full manifesto here.

The Labour Party: 'Modernise the curriculum'

Labour's focus on education is to “drive up standards, modernise the school curriculum, reform assessment, and create higher-quality training and employment paths by empowering communities to develop the skills people need."

Keir Starmer's party added: "Most children attend schools where the Conservatives are failing to provide the support and teaching that they need. Labour will end the VAT exemption and business rates relief for private schools to invest in our state schools.”

Amid the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, Labour has pledged 6,500 new "expert" teachers.

Reforms will “build on the hard work of teachers who have brought their subjects alive with knowledge-rich syllabuses, to deliver a curriculum which is rich and broad, inclusive, and innovative.”

The review will also “consider the right balance of assessment methods whilst protecting the important role of examinations”.

The Labour Party plans to support children to study a creative or vocational subject until they are 16, and “ensure accountability measures reflect this."

The also mentioned the cost-of-living crisis and said that they would fund breakfast clubs in all primary schools.

Labour said they would provide access to specialist mental health professionals in every school, so “every young person has access to early support to address problems before they escalate.”

You can read their full manifesto here.

The Liberal Democrats: 'Funding over inflation'

The Lib Dems have pledged to Increase school and college funding per-pupil above the rate of inflation every year.

As well as this, Ed Davey's party said they will end the “scandal of crumbling school and college buildings” by investing in new buildings and “clearing the backlog of repairs”. This will cost £1.9 billion a year, with £900 million coming from redirecting capital funding “for unnecessary new free schools.”

Another of their priorities is broadening the curriculum. This would include making qualifications "fit for the 21st century”, as well as drawing on “best practice such as the International Baccalaureate” and ensuring children learn “core skills such as critical thinking, verbal reasoning and creativity.”

Similarly to the Greens, the Lib Dems would seek to reform Ofsted inspections and end single-word judgements “so that parents get a clear picture of the true strengths and weaknesses of each school, and schools get the guidance and support they need to improve.”

The party has said that if they will the election, they will extend free school meals to all children in poverty, with an ambition to extend them to all primary school children when public finances allow.

They would also introduce a “Young People’s Premium”, extending pupil premium funding to disadvantaged young people aged 16-18.

You can read the full manifesto here

Plaid Cyrmu: 'Scrap private school charitable status'

Plaid Cymru, the party committed to Welsh independence from the UK, has also published their manifesto.

They pledged to continue work to provide free schools meals to all primary school children, and would look to secure the extension of the Education Maintenance Allowance. 

Plaid Cymru said they will review all bursary schemes available to incentivise teachers, to ensure they attract applicants and help to fill recruitment gaps.

They said they would recruit and retain 5,000 teachers and support staff.

The party would also review the implementation of the new Curriculum for Wales and the Additional Learning Needs Act to "ensure consistency in terms of the education and support learners receive wherever they are in Wales."

Additionally, they said they will scrap private school charitable status and charge VAT on fees and remove the exemption from business rates.

You can read their manifesto here. 

Reform UK: 'Prioritise free speech'

Nigel Farage's party has said they would "ban Critical Race Theory in primary and secondary schools" within the first 100 days of leadership.

They said that "if parents can afford to pay a bit more, we should incentivise them to choose independent schools. 

This will significantly ease pressure on state schools, so improve education for all. Independent education capacity will grow rapidly, providing competition and reducing costs."

After the first 100 days, the right-wing party said they would cut funding to universities that "undermine free speech", ban smart phones and social media in schools for pupils under 16, and value young people with "vocational talents."

You can read their manifesto here.

Scottish National Party (SNP): 'Introduce National Digital Academy'

The SNP has said they would establish a National Digital Academy which to allow learners to access the "full higher curriculum, regardless of age, school or location."

They said it would "end the postcode lottery of subject choice, and enable people to study for their Highers whilst also being in work, or fulfilling caring commitments."

The SNP, led by John Swinney, said they would increase the school uniform grant to at least £120 in primary school and £150 in secondary school.

They also said in the manifesto that they will provide "free school breakfasts and lunches to every primary school pupil, all year round and for all children in state-funded special schools in Scotland. 

"Looking longer term, we will pilot the provision of free nutritious school breakfasts in secondary schools, and, based on the findings of the pilot project, explore the feasibility of universal breakfast provision in secondary schools."

They added their policies would break "down financial barriers to make a real difference in the lives of children from low income families."

You can read the full manifesto here.