ASCL response to Conservative Party manifesto

Pepe Di’Iasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to the education policies in the Conservative Party manifesto for the 2024 General Election.
“This is a collection of recycled policies with nothing new to say about how the Conservatives would deal with the shortage of funding, teachers and the crisis in special educational needs provision. The pledge to protect day-to-day school spending in real terms per pupil is the bare minimum. In reality the costs that schools actually face are often higher than inflation and they are starting from a point of seeing budget cuts over the past 14 years. This commitment does not extend to post-16 education either.
“It is also disappointing to see the Conservatives trot out a policy on banning mobile phones yet again – having already said this on countless occasions and given that most schools already prohibit their use during the school day or allow it only in very limited circumstances. Similarly, they have once again insinuated that schools are sharing inappropriate materials in sex education and over gender identity. We have not seen evidence to support this claim and it seems to us to be largely political posturing.
“Mandating two hours of PE every week in primary and secondary schools is an example of top-down policymaking without looking at the pressures on school time and the curriculum caused by a huge range of expectations, underfunding and staff shortages. Schools absolutely do recognise and promote the value of sport and PE as a vital part of good health, and they already strive to provide this alongside everything else that is expected of them. It would be more effective for politicians to provide more support rather than more mandates.
“We assume that the line in the manifesto about backing Ofsted to provide clear judgements to parents means the Conservatives do not intend to remove single-phrase judgements which cause so much damage to the wellbeing of education staff and stigmatise schools. This is also extremely disappointing.
“Sadly, it is a manifesto which misses the mark of the priorities which are uppermost in the minds of school and college leaders and smacks of being completely out of touch with reality.”