The Conservative manifesto is the last of the main parties’ manifestos to come out. Inevitably when you’ve been the party of government for so long, it is easier to judge you on your record and so the manifesto is a bit less of a big event than it is for other parties. Nonetheless, it is still an opportunity for the party to set out its programme for the next five years, so it is worth spending some time scrutinising it.
The manifesto is unsurprisingly heavy on Brexit and promises to: get Brexit done, focus on your priorities, unleash Britain’s potential, strengthen Britain in the world and put you first. Which all sounds great, but I’m guessing that I might not be the ‘you’ that they are putting first and I doubt that they are really focusing on ‘my priorities’.
It is very badly written and difficult to find what you are looking for in it. Discussion of education and skills policy is scattered throughout the whole document and the same points are sometimes repeated in different sections. The prose also has a comically Johnsonian tinge, for example describing Britain as ‘trapped, like a lion in a cage’ or like ‘some super-green supercar blocked in traffic’. But, lets see what they have planned to unleash the lion and get the car rolling.
Shared prosperity fund. The party will create a ‘shared prosperity fund’ which is essentially a rebranding of the money that used to be available through EU funding. They seem to suggest that this money will be focused on skills funding.
Career guidance. Career guidance is only mentioned in the context of people with disabilities who they commit to improving access to career guidance for. I assume that this means that the existing career guidance policies will be continued, but as all current commitments end in 2020, that is not clear.
Schools. The party has already announced more funding for schools and they seem happy to let this pledge ride without adding any more (although they mention the funding increase twice in different parts of the manifesto). They will continue to support Ofsted, expand alternative and special education, and invest in arts and sport (which they have been responsible for cutting over the last few years).
Further education. They will invest £2 billion in improving the estate of further education. They will also launch 20 institutes of technology (which has been announced before).
Apprenticeships. They will continue with the existing apprentice system. There is a vague promise to improve the working of the apprenticeship levy, but no details.
Skills. They will launch a £3 billion skills fund. This seems to be a funding pot that will match contributions that individuals and small businesses put in to access training. There are not details on how it will work. I wonder if is something that has already been announced somewhere that I’ve missed. If anyone has any details that would be great.
Higher education. They don’t make any concrete commitments but blow the dog whistle on ‘grade inflation’ and ‘free speech’. There is also something about improving adult higher education, but again, no details.
All in all, this document is very light on details on pretty much everything that I’ve been looking at in the manifestos. Given this we are basically left to guess as to what Conservative education, skills and employment policy will look like going forwards. Again, if anyone from the Conservative Party is willing to provide any more details, then please get in touch.
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