Where the parties stand: Education

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Labour would introduce a new school report card system – grading all schools on a range of issues such as exam performance, children's wellbeing and behaviour. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, has said he believes they would give more information to parents than the current league tables based on raw results. Parents would also be given the power to ballot on a change of leadership if enough of them were concerned about the way their children's school was being run. Labour has also indicated it is willing to see the controversial external national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds replaced by teacher assessments if the these prove robust enough.


Sweeping changes to the education system with the adoption of a Swedish-style education system whereby parents, teachers, universities and faith groups would be encouraged to set up their own independent "free" schools. In addition, all schools ranked outstanding by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, would be given the right to become academies from September. Their heads would also be encouraged to take over failing schools in a bid to turn them round. An Education Bill to bring in these changes would be brought in immediately after the election. Moves to boost the quality of teaching would see stricter entry requirements for the profession with only those with a 2:2 degree or above qualifying for teacher training places. On discipline, appeals against exclusions would be abolished and the final word on disciplinary problems would rest with the headteacher.

Lib Dems

The key pledge in the Liberal Democrats' manifesto will be to introduce a "pupil premium" – which will mean schools get extra cash for every pupil on free school meals they take on. The £2.5bn plan, which would mean an extra £2,500 per pupil for schools, would be funded from tax credits and would aim to provide an incentive to heads to enrol pupils from poor families. The party would also return to the exam system envisaged by the former chief schools inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson – with an overarching diploma covering both academic and vocational qualifications. The party is also committed to abolishing top-up fees for students of £3,240 a year – although it acknowledges that economic circumstances may prevent it from implementing this pledge in the short term.