From Radical Thinking to Status Quo, Manifestos Have the Lot; It's Less Than a Fortnight until Polling and All of the UK's Major Political Parties Have Been Selling Their Wares to the Electorate. but Education Has, for the Most Part, Taken a Back Seat. Here Terry Mackie, Director of Educational Consultancy Empathi Cymru, Cuts through the Spin and Assesses Each Policy on Its Merits

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

From Radical Thinking to Status Quo, Manifestos Have the Lot; It's Less Than a Fortnight until Polling and All of the UK's Major Political Parties Have Been Selling Their Wares to the Electorate. but Education Has, for the Most Part, Taken a Back Seat. Here Terry Mackie, Director of Educational Consultancy Empathi Cymru, Cuts through the Spin and Assesses Each Policy on Its Merits


NOBODY expected education to be the top election UK issue in 2015, but seeing it slip to seventh most important position from the heady days of 1997 and "education, education, education" is a shock.

Even in Wales, under devolution for education, it is only the fifth most significant concern for the electorate. "The slumbering dragon" of Wales, as political commentator Simon Jenkins termed it, snores on.

Jobs, the economy, immigration, Europe and the NHS dominate all the political party landscapes, with one exception.

The Liberal Democrats bet the farm on brave spending plans to accelerate social mobility through improved school attainment, as well as attempting to reform higher education student finance.

They face a Snowdon-type challenge on credibility having let down the students last time. Welsh leader Kirsty Williams even failed to get education on the agenda during ITV's recent Leaders' Debate.

They get the last word from me but, firstly, let's divide all the manifestos into three groups: the structuralist spenders, "the establishment" and, the teachers' pets, the Lib Dems.

Changing school structures is anathema to Wales, if one re-reads the last 16 years under Welsh Labour control. Continuity and Fabian incrementalism are Welsh Labour's watchword.

It's the Greens, the Tories and Ukip who take the manifesto prizes for radical proposals. It's easier to be brave when the practical chances of power are slim!

Ukip stands for a return to grammar schools and secondary moderns. The Greens crave complete reconstruction of education, limiting school sizes and preaching "small is beautiful" for rural schools. They want rid of current inspection regimes.

The Ukip proposal to turn back the clock on sex education for primaries is as confused as the financial calculations of the Greens, who also promise higher education free at the point of delivery.

The Tories commit to new structures for Welsh schools without recourse to England's free schools or academies.

The "middle phase schooling" pledge gets an A* for inventiveness but an unclassified grade for clarity. …

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From Radical Thinking to Status Quo, Manifestos Have the Lot; It's Less Than a Fortnight until Polling and All of the UK's Major Political Parties Have Been Selling Their Wares to the Electorate. but Education Has, for the Most Part, Taken a Back Seat. Here Terry Mackie, Director of Educational Consultancy Empathi Cymru, Cuts through the Spin and Assesses Each Policy on Its Merits
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