Objective 6

Education

An education system that provides opportunities for all must be at the centre of any programme to create a fair and prosperous Britain. This must start with a major increase in support for pre-school education and carry right through to part-time, continuing and postgraduate study. The issue is not just one of reforming failing structures and increasing resources, it is also a matter of raising expectations among people from disadvantaged backgrounds and of ensuring that excellent education is available for all.

 

Nursery Schooling

Ensuring access to good quality nursery care is a key element in giving children a fair start in life and in creating conditions where mothers and fathers have access to employment, career development and training across their working lives. This is especially important in economically disadvantaged areas, which are often poorly served. The cost of nursery care imposes a heavy burden on many parents just at a time when finances are most stretched.

Meanwhile, support for nursery places for the children of parents on low incomes is generally insufficient to allow them to work full time. The Government’s “30 hours free childcare” initiative has encouraged parents who already have children in nurseries to increase their hours but has been less successful in encouraging new families to send their children to nurseries, which highlights the need for better funding.

The Party considers that the UK should move as quickly as possible to a situation where nursery education is available free or at modest cost for all children, with priority in the roll-out going to families in areas of deprivation.  The benefit to the economy of enabling young parents to return to work sooner and pay taxes would offset the extra cost to the public purse and would bring far-reaching benefits in terms of equality of earnings and career development as between men and women. At the same time, measures should be taken to raise the terms and conditions and status of childcare workers to help address the severe problem with recruitment that affects the sector.

 

Primary and Secondary Education

Britain combines several of the best performing universities in the World with a disastrous record in terms of basic literacy and numeracy and a secondary schools system which under-performs against almost all of our international competitors. According to studies by the OECD, the UK consistently comes worst or second worst (after the US) of the 24 advanced democracies in terms of the proportion of 16-18-year-olds who are competent in reading, writing and basic mathematics, undermining any prospect of our keeping pace with business competitors in Europe and Asia.

Employer surveys underline that good literacy and numberacy skills are a key factor in recruitment. Those who lack these skills risk spending the rest of their lives at a crippling disadvantage in the world of work and in every other aspect of their lives. A far-reaching improvement in outcomes will be needed if young people in Britain are to hold their own. As a first step, the Party proposes that a real national curriculum is developed which ensures that all pupils are guaranteed an education which encompasses language skills, numeracy, science, history, information and communications technology, citizenship and ethics.

While funding is the most immediate problem, under performance also results from longer-term issues which are unique to Britain. The UK’s disastrous record on key indicators of pre-18 education sits alongside a large, partly tax-payer funded, private schools sector which is unique among advanced economy countries and a lack of local democratic control of resources for state schools. Since the 1980s, state schools have been subjected to a far-reaching neo-conservative restructuring that has transferred the control of many, mainly secondary schools from local authorities to commercial and religious organisations. This agenda was modelled on experiments in the United States and pushed forward by Conservative and Labour Governments in the face of widespread hostility from parents and teachers.

Based on data published annually by the OECD, it is now clear that this strategy has totally failed in its stated objectives of improving outcomes and equality of opportunity. Thus, research carried out by the inspection analysis organisation Angel Solutions into 429 council-maintained schools rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2013 showed that 75% of those which had remained under local authority control had improved to good or excellent, as compared to only 59% of those which had converted to academies.  Yet, the Government ruled in 2016, that in future all schools rated inadequate by Ofsted must become sponsor-led academies! At the same time, the attack on local democratic oversight of schools has reduced transparency and, judging by media reports, sometimes opened the way to discrimination, indoctrination and abuse in some schools.

Less visible, but significant in terms of the kind of society the next generation will inherit, replacing democratic overview of schools with private, closed-door management has eroded opportunities for ordinary people to participate in decision-taking on a crucial aspect of their children’s lives. As such, it reflects the view Mrs Thatcher expressed to Woman’s Own in 1987 that: “there’s no such thing as society … and people must look after themselves”, and away from the aspiration for a society characterised by local initiative, shared decision-taking and mutual support.

 

An Evolutionary Approach to Reform 

Responsibility for running schools has largely been transferred from head teachers, parents, and local authority representatives, to business and religious organisations by converting local authority schools into US-style “academies” and encouraging the establishment of so-called “free schools”. In keeping with their neo-conservative ideology, ministers have made it clear that this drive is not just intended to raise standards but also to promote “traditional values”. The policy was introduced without any serious attempt to assess it against alternative reform strategies and it has not proved an effective means of addressing educational disadvantage either in the UK or in Sweden, where similar experiments have been conducted.

Academisation has caused fragmentation, a loss of local accountability, the legitimisation of discriminatory selection processes, wasteful duplication and a shift in investment away from schools in greatest need to those converting to become academies. It is important that lessons are learnt both from the failings of the old system and from the experiments of recent years, and that disruption caused by constant restructuring is minimised. But it is also clear that if our educational system is to improve, to permit young people to develop on their own terms, and to guarantee transparency and accountability, far-reaching changes will be needed.

The Radical Party supports the call for a longer-term strategy to tackle inequalities between different regions and communities. It calls for the Office of Educational Standards in Education (Ofsted) to be reinforced and restructured to allow it to play an important role in promoting evidence-based policy making and learning from best practice in this country and abroad without compromising its exisiting role in inspecting schools and teacher training.

It believes that powers should be progressively transferred from the Secretary of State to democratic control and oversight involving head teachers, teaching professionals, parents and elected represEF9566 Schoolboys and schoolgirls learning in classroom. Image shot 2014. Exact date unknown.entatives, backed up with specialist knowledge and experience. Regional, county and unitary authorities should be given the powers and the resources to plan, commission and monitor publicly funded schools in their areas effectively, to address shortages of places and to intervene to turn around failing schools. Resources which currently go directly to academies and free schools in England from the Department for Education should be channelled through the existing Regional Commissioners for Education, who should be brought under local democratic oversight.

Thereafter, strategic responsibility for all publicly funded schools should be vested in elected regional education authorities with the resources to ensure effective management and supervision. School funding principles should be reformed to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to all schools such that all children have the opportunity to realise their potential, with additional funding for schools serving disadvantaged areas. As a result of cuts in their budgets, local authorities are being forced to reduce funding for pupils with Special Educational Needs in many parts of the country, a policy which is both cruel and short-sighted. The highest priority should be given to restoring funding for professional support for this group of particularly vulnerable young people.

All schools and bodies involved in education should be required to comply with the principles of freedom of information and should be publicly accountable for their use of taxpayers’ money in a transparent way. Controls should be tightened to ensure that the material benefits that individuals and organisations receive for running schools are reasonable and that they are prevented from profiting from the supply of goods or services. Discriminatory selection processes should be banned and all schools required to collaborate to prevent pupils from poorer homes becoming concentrated in particular schools.

Resources and Standards

Because of rising pupil numbers, funding foreseen by the Government would involve a reduction of funding per pupil of 2.8% over the period to 2020, further increasing workloads and worsening the already unacceptable level of strain on teachers. Extra finance needs to be made available to address this immediate threat. Longer term, resources must be provided both to take full account of changing demographic demands and to fund a determined effort to tackle inequalities between different regions and communities. A specific priority should be tackling high teacher turnover in socially disadvantaged schools. With this aim, the Government should agree with the profession, and introduce, means of incentivising teachers to make a longer-term commitment to such schools.

Core areas of knowledge, that are essential for pupils when they enter the world of work and for building a modern economy, including language skills, maths and science, should be made compulsory in all schools, including so-called Free Schools. At the same time, determined efforts should be made to challenge the view that education is basically a business and pupils customers, rather than a means to empower young people, to encourage them to develop their abilities and individuality, and to enrich their lives.

Measures should be taken to raise morale and professional standards in teaching by reviewing and guaranteeing the current Teachers Standards through the Chartered College of Teachers (which should be supported in its further development).

This should be done in conjunction with local authorities and the proposed regional educational authorities and should involve higher entry qualifications, more demanding teacher education, stage attainment targets and provision for enhanced career development opportunities and improved pay and conditions.

The Party considers that school inspectors should remain a national responsibity under Ofsted with the emphasis on school change and development. Steps should be taken to make sure that local education authorities (and once they are established, the proposed regional authorities) have the resources and skills to ensure that improvements recommended as a result of inspections are implemented and embedded.

Initiatives are needed to promote collaboration between schools, to encourage mentoring, to share best practice and encourage mutual support in helping all schools to become good schools. Developing an enhanced role for head teachers and school governors should play a part in this. Mutual support between parents should also be promoted, focusing on preparing infants and children for school and helping all parents play a constructive role in supporting learning and appropriate behaviour. An important element of this should involve empowering children to protect themselves in an informed way from threats involving dangerous drugs, sexual vulnerability and potentially abusive aspects of the internet.

Ofsted

Any serious attempt to raise educational standards must be informed by a properly resourced system of monitoring and evaluation. Since 2010, the resources available to Ofsted have been severely cut. While Failing schools are inspected regularly until they achieve Good or Excellent status, schools rated Good or Excellent are now only being inspected every ten years, with the result that it is possible for schools whose standards have declined to continue to go unreported for many years.

The result of this is that parents are denied information that is essential if they are to make informed choices about their children’s education, school heads, governors and managers are not alerted to emerging problems and the Government and the public are given a picture of progress in the sector which, while politically convenient, increasingly fails to reflect the true situation. To address this problem, regular inspections for Good and Excellent schools should be reintroduced and funding for Ofsted restored, as a matter of urgency, to the level which applied prior to the 2010 election in real terms.

 

Tolerance and Mutual Respect

The Radical Party believes that parents should decide the philosophical framework within which their children are raised. Current legislation requires every school (apart from “faith schools”) to provide “a daily collective Act of worship of a broadly Christian nature”. Religious education under the 1944 Education Act is compulsory in all schools and this is the only compulsory subject in academies. “Faith” schools can control their intake and provide religious instruction, which may either be Christian or, subject to government approval, in another religion.

The law allow parents to withdraw their children from religious education, but many do not take advantage of this right, because they lack self-confidence, want their child’s education to have an ethical component and no non-religious option is provided, or because they do not want him or her to be singled out. This clearly discriminates against the majority of the population who are not religious or who adhere to minority systems of belief. Giving some schools the right to control their intake along religious lines and requiring all schools to provide religious worship divides communities. It also involves government in taking decisions on what does, and does not, constitute a legitimate religion, which is not an appropriate role for politicians.

By the same measure, all pupils in publicly funded schools should be protected against requirements which reflect social engineering rather than educational objectives and which go beyond reasonable practical justification. For example, there may be good reasons why a school may wish to lay down minimum standards of dress but, within such parameters, pupils should not be subjected to intrusive and potentially humiliating dress codes stipulating, for example, the wearing of ties or that girls should wear skirts rather than trousers.

The Party considers that all parents should be given the option of choosing a secular alternative for the ethical component of their children’s education and all publicly funded schools should be required to make proper provision to meet this need. In the longer term, a secular system of publicly funded education, as exists in France and the United States, would provide the best foundation for tolerance, fairness and mutual respect in a society of diverse loyalties and beliefs. Students should be helped to acquire a balanced understanding of different religions, philosophies and cultural traditions through the curriculum without the school being required to promote one system of belief above others.

The Government has recently taken welcome steps to strengthen the requirement for sex and relationships education in schools. Unfortunately, at the same time, it yielded to pressure to dilute this requirement in the case of religious schools, thus denying a group of children who may be in some respects most in need, their entitlement to advice they need to take informed decisions on issues which will shape their future lives. All schools should be required to provide impartial, evidence-based sex and relationships education for all pupils based on a framework agreed at the national level and taking account of the positive and negative aspects of engagement with social media.

 

Higher and Further Education

Judged by many criteria, our universities are a huge success. At the end of the Sec0nd World War, there were 21 of them catering for 2% of the population. There are now 142, attended by almost 50% of school leavers and in the international rankings, only the United States has a greater number in the top 25. The UK currently receives up to £1.5 billion a year in EU research grants and hosts some 440,000 overseas students, who contribute £16 billion a year to the economy in fees and living expenses. In terms of soft power, the Heads of State of 58 countries went to university here, compared with 57 in the US and 33 in France.

But in judging the success of our universities it is necessary to look beyond income and reputation and ask the question, what are they for? First, a university education should be beneficial to the development of the individual – and can be justified on that basis alone. Second, it plays an important part in developing the skills and knowledge that the country needs. Third, it helps students to decide on their future careers and promotes the  rational organisation of the workforce by providing a certificate of knowledge, application and ability. And, fourth, it marks for many students an important staging post on the road to adulthood and autonomy by enabling them to leave home and build new networks of friends and acquaintances.

The first of these objectives appears to be largely achieved, with surveys indicating that most graduates are pleased that they went to university. However, it is equally clear that the second objective is not being met, with an obvious mismatch between the skills and knowledge being taught and those the country needs. At the same time, almost half of all current students, particularly among those from lower income homes, will never recuperate the cost of fees paid, the accumulated interest on their loans and earnings foregone as a result of deciding to continue to study after leaving school.

Encouraged to behave like private businesses as part of the neo-conservative drive to marketise as many aspects of life as possible, rising tuition fees have encouraged universities to provide courses that are popular and cheap to deliver; with an arts or social studies course costing about £2,000 compared with £12,000 a year for a course in engineering and £18,000 for a course in medicine. Reflecting this, the UK now ranks 16th out of 20 OECD countries in terms of the proportion of the population with technical qualifications, with a grave shortage of graduates in science, technology, engineering and medicine. Engineering UK estimates that, with a shortfall of over 20,000 graduates a year, British Universities are currently only producing half the number the country needs. At the same time, some 2,500 students a year are graduating in sports journalism; more than 50 times the number of jobs becoming available.

Inadequate careers guidance and the mismatch between courses offered and the realities of the jobs market have led to a situation where up to a third of graduates end up taking non-graduate jobs.  This impacts negatively on rational recruitment, with job seekers with degrees displacing those without, even though the latter may prove to be a better long-term choice. In this sense, a system which should rationalise the labour market has ended up by distorting it. To help address this problem investment in careers guidance in schools should be increased and the funding formula revised to remove the opportunity cost currently involved in offering subjects which involve the use of laboratories and expensive equipment and materials.

At just under 50%, Britain is not exceptional in terms of the proportion of school leavers who go on to higher education, with fast growing South Korea and China now educating over 70% of young people to university level.  Young people leaving school today can expect still to be working in fifty years time, and in an economy which is far more knowledge intensive. The issue, therefore, is not to discourage young people from staying on in education but to ensure that universities offer courses that address the emerging opportunities and that all school leavers have the resources they need to make hard-headed choices about the options open to them. In this connection, it is important to note that in Germany, which is frequently quoted as a model of good practice in terms of vocational and technical training, only 27% of school leavers go to university, with many school leavers who in the UK would go to university opting for vocational training in prestigious technical high schools.

Funding Tuition

The rise in the proportion of school leavers going on to post-18 education has made university funding a major issue. The Party does not believe that it would be fair, or a proper use of resources, for taxpayers to pay the full cost of university education for all students, poor or rich. This would cost some £8 billion a year which could be better spent improving secondary school education and supporting high quality training for the 50% of school leavers, mainly from poorer households, who go straight into the world of work.

But it is also clear that the system of student loan-based tuition fees, which was introduced under Labour in 1998 at a level of £1,000 a year and raised progressively to the current level of £9,250 (in England), has been a disaster. The system is opaque, ill-thought out and bureaucratic. It was introduced from the US for reasons of electoral expediency and to massage the public sector borrowing requirement and was based on wholly unjustified assumptions.

Giving universities the right to determine the fees they charge (within a cap) has not as predicted led to a market based on fees, as almost all have chosen to charge the maximum fee, creating a total student debt of a staggering £118 billion, according to the Office of Budget Responsiblity (OBR). While most students in elite universities and those from better-off households can expect a financial return on their investment over their lifetimes, many others will never recover the cost of their loans.

It is also clear that the assumption that a high proportion of graduates would actually pay back their loans was wholly unrealistic, with the OBR now warning that only 31% of loans taken on by students matriculating in 2017-8 will be paid back – leaving £28 billion unaccounted for in the public accounts. The fact that authoritative sources envisage a problem of this scale is a clear indication that the present system needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

While protecting the resources available for higher education, the funding of tuition should be fundamentally reformed to end the situation where young people enter the world of work with heavy, long-term debts, with tuition fees in England currently the highest for public universities anywhere in the world.

Meanwhile, Germany provides some of the best university education in the world free, while the Scottish Government supports the cost of university education for residents. The situation in England (and to a lesser extent in Wales and Northern Ireland, where the cap on tuition fees is lower) has come about because of the misguided and corrupting neo-conservative concept that education is a market and universities fundamentally no different from private businesses, which balance their accounts by selling education to student customers.

The issues of the funding of post-18 education and training and of the burden faced by the cohort of students who will face heavy debtedness because of the increased fees and interest charges introduced since 2010 are complex and involve a variety of stateholders. The Party will continue to consult on the details of how this shambles can best be addressed.  The first step should be a determined effort to make sure that all loans due are actually repaid by reducing the ceiling, closing loopholes and fundamentally changing the payment system. The principle that post-18 education is of benefit both to the individual and to society should be reflected in an increased public contribution to allow fees to be reduced to no more that £3,000 a year and provided for additional funding to encourage universities to increase the number of study places in subjects which are expensive t0 provide and where the country is facing a shortge of qualified graduate job applicants.

As originally intended, tuition fees should be treated as a contribution to the cost of teaching, with the cost of research being covered by baseline funding from the Government for research-intensive universities, together with competitively tendered grants and contracts from national, international, not-for-profit and private sector sources. This would address the injustice of students being required to cover the cost of their own education while at the same time contributing to the cost of research, which is a long-term endeavour of benefit to the whole of society. And it would end the anomoly of putting universities which are primarily involved in teaching on the same footing as those which undertake large amounts of expensive scientific research.

Provisions should be introduced to ensure that fee income is used to cover current expenditure and is not invested to create future income streams; for example, via off-campus student housing. At the same time, universities should be encouraged to reduce the cost of courses by collaborating in the web-based delivery of core and common elements. They should also be required to take account of the realities of the labour market in determining what courses to put on and to do more to ensure that applicants fully understand the likely long term implications of choosing particular courses.

The bank of mum and dad

At present, with the student loan fund privatised, graduates pay interest on their outstanding loans at up to 6.3%  – at a time when Bank Rate stands at 0.75% and mortgage interest can be obtained at under 2.0%; in part because they pay the cost of administering a bureaucratic system of administration and enforcement and the cost of the Student Loan Company’s profit margin.

In keeping with the principle of solidarity between generations, the Party proposes that parents with income above the earnings threshold should be required to help their children meet their annual tuition fees through a loan. Once the child’s earnings had reached the threshold level (currently £25,000 a year) he or she would then repay the loan, plus interest at a modest rate, though a surcharge on income tax.

To support this approach, a new savings vehicle would be introduced to replace the existing ISA system to provide a tax incentive for parents (and grandparents) to save towards the cost of their child or grandchild’s fees for post-18 education or training and, ultimately, to enhance their own income in retirement, with the loan being paid back into the savings account via HMRC to enhance his or her pension on retirement. In the case of parents whose income was below the earnings threshold, the Government would pay the loan with the student, once earning above the threshold for repayment, repaying it to the public purse via PAYE.

At the same time, the 30 year time limit on the requirement to repay student loans should be removed. This would help to avoid the current situation where authoritative advisers openly recommend parents on the Internet not to pay off their children’s fees. Non-reimbursable maintenance grants (which were phased out in 2016) should be reintroduced for students from lower income homes and provision made for the Government to subsidise the cost of tuition in areas of skills shortage and modest earnings such as nursing.

Equal access

The higher education sector is now acutely aware of the need to actively promote equality of access for young people from different backgrounds, with significant differentials between the proportion of school students who go on to higher education from poorer homes and from certain ethnic groups, despite a modest improvement since 1998. Moreover, students from privileged backgrounds continue to take a disproportionate share of places in elite universities and in areas of study which lead to higher paid occupations.

For example, research published by the OECD covering data for 2014, shows that the UK has been relatively unsuccessful in using the higher education system to promote equality of opportunity, showing a worse than average performance for England and Wales among the countries and regions surveyed. While universities have undoubtedly made great efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to widen student recruitment, the pervasive nature of inequality in the UK, and the failure by successive governments to create a genuinely egalitarian system of pre-18 education, pose a huge obstacle. Thus, according to the Education Statistics Authority, 25% of first year medical students in UK universities were from private schools, which account for only 7% of all pupils. At the same time, research by BMC Medicine shows that on average, students from non-selective schools perform better in medical examinations than those from private or grammar schools.

Decisions about where and what to study that young people take while still in their teens may shape the rest of their lives. Much greater efforts should be made to ensure that potential applicants receive comprehensive, impartial and comparable information about the universities and courses they are considering, including outcomes in terms of future employment and earnings. Increased tuition fees have had a particularly severe impact on enrollment to part-time courses, which have seen a sharp drop in student numbers. This problem should be addressed as a matter of urgency, as part-time study makes an important contribution to equality of opportunity and to maximising the nation’s human capital.

To increase the range of options for school leavers and improve access, a wider range of one-year starter courses and two-year basic degree courses should be introduced. Universities should be required to provide formal recognition of successful completion of each year of study through certificates and diplomas, which could be recognised by employers as proof of achievement at a lower level than full degrees. At the same time, the Government should work with the further and higher education sector and employers and trade unions to improve access to training and development opportunities for older people to reflect the growing need for re-skilling and new life opportunities resulting from the abolition of the the fixed age of retirement.

 

SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS

Schools

  • make high-quality nursery care available free or at an acceptable cost and provide free childcare for all children living in areas high levels of poverty;
  • develop a national curriculum covering all schools encompassing language skills, numeracy, science, history, citizenship and ethics;      
  • transfer powers from the Secretary of State to democratic oversight involving teachers, education professionals, parents and elected representatives, by:
    • empowering regional, county and unitary authorities to plan, commission and monitor publicly funded schools, to address shortages of places and to intervene to turn around failing schools;
    • initially, channel resources which currently go to academies and free schools directly from the Department for Education through the existing Regional Commissioners for Education and bring them under local democratic oversight; 
    • thereafter, vest strategic responsibility for all publicly funded schools in elected regional education authorities with the resources to ensure effective management and supervision;
    • require all schools and bodies involved in education to comply with the principles of freedom of information and to be publicly accountable for their use of taxpayers money;
    • ensure that the material benefits that individuals and organisations receive for running schools are reasonable and that they are prevented from profiting from the supply of goods or services;
    • reform school funding principles to provide for all children to have the opportunity to realise their potential by increasing funding for schools serving disadvantaged areas;
    • end discriminatory selection processes and require all schools to collaborate to tackle the tendancy for pupils from poorer homes to become concentrated in particular schools. 

Resources and Standards

  • provide immediate additional funding to reverse the threatened real terms cuts and ensure that in future resources take full account  of changing demographic demands;
  • tackle inequalities in funding between different regions and communities;
  • support the development of a National Office for Educational Standards to promote evidence-based policy-making and learning from best practice;
  • promote the development of collaborative structures involving all schools to provide a framework for mentoring, shared best practice and initiatives to ensure that all schools are good schools, with emphasis on the role of head teachers and school governors ;
  • support initiatives to promote the active engagement of parents in ensuring their children are ready for school and that they are equipped to support their learning and behaviour at school; 
  • raise morale and professional standards in teaching by supporting an increased role for the Chartered College of Teachers;
  • review current Teachers Standards, and support higher entry qualifications, more demanding teacher education, reduced teacher workloads, stage attainment targets, provision for better pay and conditions, and enhanced career development opportunities.

Tolerance and Mutual Respect

  • ensure that all parents can choose a secular alternative for the ethical component of their children’s education and require all publicly funded schools to make proper provision to meet this need;
  • explore the case for a secular system of publicly funded education, as exists in France and the United States, to provide a strong  foundation for tolerance, fairness and mutual respect in a society of diverse loyalties and beliefs;
  • help students to acquire a balanced understanding of different religions, philosophies and cultural traditions through the curriculum without the school promoting one system of belief above the others;
  • require all schools to provide broad-based sex and relationships education for all pupils based on a framework agreed at the national level.

 Further and Higher Education

  • reform the tuition fees system to end the situation where young people enter the world of work with heavy debts by: 
    • providing for the state to fund all research activities in universities and increase its financial support for post-18 education, while reducing the ceiling for fees from £9,250 to a maximum of £3,000 a year;
    • requiring better-off parents to pay the annual tuition for a child under 25 fees, either directly or in the form of a loan to their child;
    • once earnings had reached a given level, the child would repay the loan via PAYE, plus interest at a modest rate, into a special account though a sliding scale surcharge on income tax with the sum in the account being used to enhance the parent’s pension;
    • in the case of parents with income below the earnings threshold, the Government would pay the loan with the student, once earning above the threshold for repayment, being required to repay the loan plus modest interest in the same way;
  • reintroduce maintenance grants for students from low-income families;
  • promote the introduction of a wider range of one-year starter courses and two-year basic degree courses to improve access;
  • encourage universities and colleges to provide formal recognition of successful completion of each year of study in a form which can be recognised by employers;
  • take urgent steps to address the problem of the impact of tuition fees on enrollment in part-time post-18 education.