Both parties agree that that the return on investment in education needs to be much better and that education is not sacrosanct and will be subject to cuts, although not ‘front line cuts’.

This begs the question what is  the front line? But while there are significant areas of agreement, there are also some  areas of disagreement on  policy, and  indeed emphasis.  Much agreement on ends, not always on means.

And the elephant in the room? How to fund it all.

Where is there Agreement?

Pupil Premium

More funding to follow the most disadvantaged pupils -though differences in how this might be funded. Legislation due on this in the autumn.

Teacher Quality

Acceptance of need to improve the quality of teaching and to respect the professionalism of teachers and to reform teachers pay.

Stem Support

The need to focus more on Stem subjects and to recruit more specialist teachers

Parent Power and Choice

Need to improve choice for parents but engage them more too in support of their children’s education.

Slimmed Down Quangocracy

Agreement on the need to get rid of some quangos and to cut back spending significantly on others.

YP Guarantee

The Young Peoples guarantee remains important to both parties with a particular focused shared on the requirements of the NEET cohort.

RPA Dissolution

Regarding the raising the participation age there are real concerns about the costs compliance and suitability and quality  of courses on offer in both parties.

Good careers Advice

Need to improve careers advice and for it to be available at 14, 16 18 and beyond and the need for good independent  information on labour market and better more user friendly ways  to communicate with young people.


The need to break down the divide or ‘apartheid’ between vocational and academic qualifications and vocational progression into HE.

Adult Skills Funding

Broad agreement on the importance of Adult Learning and skills funding. Although Lib Dems want to scrap adult leraning fees.


Agreement on the need for FE to be more demand driven, opening up the supply side and 14+ funding for colleges . They both want to set colleges free. And find ways of funding more college and work place training places with a wide range of routes into further and higher education, including through high-quality apprenticeships.

Welfare to Work

They want to implement a single coherent welfare to work programme.

Sure Start

Funding for Sure Start will be largely protected but the coalition wants to take it back to its original purpose, so better targeted interventions to benefit the most disadvantaged  will be key.

Regional Development Agencies

The coalition has set out its detailed plans including replacing regional development agencies with a new system of local enterprise partnerships.

Where is there Disagreement?

Academies and Free Schools

The Lib Dems want sponsor-run Academies but fear the cost implications of Tory policies and how the Tories will determine when there is a real demand for new schools. Want local authorities to be more involved in commissioning new schools and in ensuring local democratic accountability. They also worry about possible fragmentation of the system. Tories want Las not to be involved with Academies and for them to be centrally approved. But Gove also keen not to alienate Las and wants partnership to deliver excellence in schools. Academies Bill  now in the Lords suggests Tories have won the argument, but the detail matters to Lib Dems.

Tuition Fees

Both Parties waiting for the results of the Browne review but Tories more sympathetic to flexibility in tuition fees to allow them to rise. Lib Dems ultimately want them to go when the time is right but are unclear as to how this can happen without institutions becoming less competitive although suggesting a phased reform over a six year time frame, ending  in year 6 with final abolition.


Both parties want to reform SATS. The Tories want to stick with SATS at 11 and possibly make them tougher. The Lib Dems want to put more emphasis on classroom assessments by teachers and scale back the tests. The Tories would test six years olds on literacy and publish the results. The coalition wants a review of SATS which suggests consensus has been hard to achieve.

School Curriculum

The Lib Dems want to axe the national curriculum and replace it with a slimmed-down ‘Minimum Curriculum Entitlement’. They like the look of the Tomlinson curriculum. Mike Tomlinson’s report on 14 to 19 education, drawn up in 2004, suggested the replacement of GCSE and A-level by a component-based diploma with a basic requirement for everyone and additional routes and pathways. The Tories want to get back to the basics with a traditional and academic core curriculum and to offer state schools access to new or different qualifications such as IGCSE and Cambridge Pre U.

One to One Tuition

The Lib Dems want to invest more funds in one to one tuition. The Tories believe that the one to one tuition programme has been largely ineffective – and far too costly.

League tables

Liberal Democrat policy want to abolish league tables or at least fundamentally reform them.  The Tories want to reform them so schools for instance could get extra league table points by moving more pupils through what they call “harder” A-levels, such as maths and physics. Their proposals for England also suggest awarding fewer points for subjects seen as easier, such as media studies, proposals that are not backed by the Lib Dems.  One possible compromise already mooted is a shift to a “like-versus-like” system, in which schools in the poorest parts of the country will only be compared to those facing similarly difficult situations.

Class Sizes

Lib Dems are keen to invest heavily in reducing class sizes in Secondary Education. Tories like small class sizes but this is a second order priority for new investment and they don’t believe that the money required to reduce class sizes measurably could be justified in  the current circumstances.


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