Conservative manifesto education pledges – funding, FSM & grammar schools – expert analysis
Expert reaction on the Conservative manifesto education pledges
Comment from Professor Stephen Gorard, Durham University:
“As with those of the other major parties, the Conservative election manifesto for education is a mixed bag. For example, the commitment to fairer funding for schools overcoming decades of historical under-funding in some regions (but with protection for other areas in the short term) is very welcome, as is the renewed commitment to the Pupil Premium for schools taking disadvantaged pupils.
The move from funding free lunches for all in early primary years to free breakfasts for all primary years is imaginative and more in line with what research evidence there is. However, that evidence is very limited. The recent Educational Endowment Foundation evaluation of breakfasts (https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/our-work/projects/magic-breakfast) found some promise, but the findings can be explained both by attrition (missing data) and by the fact that the best results were for Key Stage 1, in which the assessments were by teachers who knew whether their schools were in the treatment group or not. The policy might save money, could help well-being, and is unlikely to do any harm but could have limited benefit for attainment.
Much of the rest of the education manifesto, on school organisation and structures, is actually ‘evidence perverse’. It is simply not true that research on grammar school intakes show them to be taking more than their fair share of ‘ordinary working-class’ pupils. All of the evidence is that selection creates clusters of already privileged pupils in selective schools, and so a smaller than fair proportion of poorer pupils (http://dro.dur.ac.uk/20400/). Expanding grammar school provision will tend to make this unfairness more widespread.
The Conservatives have put into the manifesto all of the controversial items that were in the Green Paper, without publishing the lengthy and expensive DfE consultation results. They are intent on increasing further the diversity of schools, rather than creating the kind of national school system which should follow logically from their preamble about the current unfairness in the system. They complain about school intakes being clustered by house pricing but then promise not to use admission lotteries to overcome this, even though the international evidence is clear that such lotteries (along with banding, bussing and the abolition of proximity rules) can most easily break the school/residential segregation cycle”