Enya MacLiam Roberts
05 Jun 2017
As polling day nears, ‘school funding’ and the future of Britain’s education system remain a focal point of the election battleground. The release of the manifestos in early May saw a number of the rumoured pledges come into being with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, in particular, placing education at the forefront. So what policy choices are we being presented with?
Labour was the first to publish its manifesto (although perhaps prompted by its leaking), “prioritising education as it deserves” and promising to:
Bring forward its pledge to scrap tuition fees, including students enrolled from autumn 2017 and students part-way through their courses.
Re-introduce maintenance grants to cover living costs (to be paid for by increasing corporation tax and income tax for those earning £80,000 or more).
Introduce a National Education Service (NES) to provide “cradle-to-grave” learning that is free at the point of use.
Reduce class sizes to less than 30 pupils for all 5, 6 and 7 year olds.
Provide free school meals for all primary school children (paid for by removing the VAT exemption on private school fees).
Prevent schools from becoming academies and ‘free schools’.
Ensure schools have sufficient resources for them to invest in new school buildings (including the removal of asbestos from existing schools).
Labour is seeking to provide changes at both primary and higher education levels. In terms of university fees, the pledge resembles that made by the Liberal Democrats in 2010 which was never implemented following the coalition with the Conservatives. Labour is determined to demonstrate its commitment to abolishing tuition fees and propose a £9.5 billion annual bill to take account of this and the anticipated rise in fees in the autumn. Further to this, Labour wants to reverse the funding cuts that have affected further education (FE) colleges and proposes to introduce free, lifelong FE colleges through the provision of new technical colleges.
The Liberal Democrat Party, alongside pledging a second EU referendum, is also prioritising education and proposes to:
Invest £7 billion in children’s education so that no school loses funding per pupil.
Extend free school meals to all children of primary school age.
Triple funding for the ‘early years pupil premium’, boosting it to £1,000 per pupil per year.
Raise the quality of early years education by ensuring that by 2022, each facility has a qualified ‘early years’ teacher.
Oppose new grammar schools.
Give local authorities ‘proper democratic control’ over admissions and new schools.
Devolve all monies to local authorities to ensure that new schools are built in areas where there is demand.
Reinstate maintenance grants.
In substantiating its pledges, the Lib Dems confirm that proposals have derived from a fully costed programme and similar to Labour, this would be delivered through an NES.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies has been quick to comment in light of both these manifestos, stating that maintaining education funding at current levels would mean raising spending by £3.7 billion and that a promise to protect schools from cuts would not be cheap.
UKIP is seeking to promote an accessible education system for all children and in delivering this, proposes to:
Amend planning legislation to ensure more nurseries are built to expand childcare places.
Bring back grammar schools and support a range of secondary schools including vocational, technical and specialist schools.
Waive tuition fees for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) subjects at university.
Give local people the final say on major planning developments in their area.
Clearly, this final point would need to be carefully implemented to ensure that it does not affect the delivery of 1 and 2.
The Conservative Party has used its manifesto as an opportunity to affirm its ‘achievements’ to date and argue that education spending has been at record levels during its term of office. Going forward the Party intends to:
Scrap free school lunches for infants in England, to instead offer free breakfasts for all children at primary school level.
Pump an extra £4 billion a year into schools by 2022.
Introduce new funding arrangements to open specialist mathematics schools in all major cities.
Scrap the ban on setting up new grammar schools.
Involve universities which charge maximum tuition fees and independent schools in the sponsorship and founding of academies and ‘free schools’.
Similar to the Lib Dems, the Conservatives do not propose any significant regulatory changes at university level and the primary focus is on improving the system available to ‘school children’. The Party has estimated that savings of £650 million would be made as a result of scrapping school dinners and that this would be recycled into school budgets. However, the Education Data Lab has commented that the provision of ‘free breakfasts’ alone could cost more than treble the £60m allocated by the Conservatives on the basis that the Party only assumes a 25% take-up and projected costs of 25p per child per day.
As we can see, the parties have been quick to provide voters with ‘incentives’ and in turn have had no difficulty in broadcasting the flaws and false promises of their opponents. However the debate is seen, a new approach is required. The RIBA has confirmed in its own manifesto that the UK will need to provide an additional 420,000 new school places by 2021 and that future provision will need to recognise the role of ‘good school design’ in securing the best outcomes. The devolution of monies and control to local authorities put forward by the Liberal Democrats and the investment into facilities proposed by both Labour and the Conservatives, could, therefore, provide significant opportunities and introduce interesting changes to the delivery of Britain’s educational provision.
We just have to wait for 8 June before we can speculate further and consider what this will mean for the planning and development industry. In the meantime, should you wish to discuss further or learn more about our work in the education sector, please get in touch with a member of our Education Team.
 RIBA (2017) Manifesto 2017: Building Global Britain. RIBA, London.
Enya MacLiam Roberts
13 Mar 2017
I joined Lichfields in September 2015 as a graduate planner after studying for a Masters in Urban Planning and Development at the University Of Reading. I had undertaken work experience in both the public and private sectors in the past but this was my first real step into employment. My experience had shown me that I wanted to work in the private sector promoting development on behalf of clients and contributing to the innovative solutions that shape our built environment. Therefore, choosing the right private planning consultancy was key.
From the start, I knew that I wanted to work in London as the capital at the forefront of the industry and the core of a much wider planning and development solution to our evolving population. Lichfields’ London office is one of eight offices across the UK and lends Lichfields to provide experience far beyond the country’s capital. However, for me, throughout the graduate application process, it was the culture of Lichfields that stood out. It was so easily expressed by current employees that I felt enthused to apply. The people of Lichfields were genuinely interested in me and keen to understand where and how I wanted to develop my career.
As many graduates will agree, the job application process is not an easy one and Lichfields was certainly competitive - but it was also personal. The first stage consisted of an interview and two tests which were maths and English-based but planning and development-focused. This allowed me to apply my knowledge and demonstrate my skills from the very beginning. Shortly after my interview, I was delighted to learn that I had been offered the job and would soon become part of Lichfields.
In terms of my career progression, Lichfields’ Graduate Development Programme is a three year course which has been designed to offer exposure to a wide variety of on-the- job project work, as well as more formal learning opportunities through workshops and training. I have now worked at Lichfields for over 18 months and I am in my second team rotation: I am now part of the Retail and Education team, following my first year in Tourism & Leisure. The aim of rotation is to allow graduates to develop their skills and knowledge of particular types of development and planning, before choosing the right career path. The Programme has exceeded my expectations as I have already gained exposure to large national clients and been involved in an array of project tasks which have included cross-office working with Lichfields’ teams in Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh. I continue to learn from the wide expertise at Lichfields and draw upon our array of specialist teams, such as Daylight and Sunlight, Economics and Regeneration, and Planning Law and Policy. I regularly attend in-house breakfast and lunchtime seminars here in the London office (all of the offices hold similar events), which provide interesting insights into the roles of co-consultants as well as useful updates on emerging development-related policy and legislation. I can say with confidence that I am on track with obtaining the skills and experience expected at Year 2.
In terms of my personal development, I was allocated a ‘buddy’ on my first day and within the first month, I had joined other graduates from across the eight Lichfields’ offices for a day of team building. I have a Lichfields’ mentor whom I can speak to separate from my daily tasks, and also a qualified RTPI member to guide me in the preparation of my APC.
The social calendar at Lichfields is particularly active and encourages a positive working environment. The socials vary: team meals and activities; whole office events such as summer BBQs, picnics, games nights and quizzes; the annual walking weekend; and the entire Company meeting up for the Christmas party. As well as taking part, this year, as one of the second year graduates, I have had the opportunity to organise the London office socials. It is a great way of getting to know colleagues outside the office and really helps in creating those important working-relationships that will go beyond the immediate tasks that have to be dealt with.
Accepting my graduate position at Lichfields has definitely been the right decision. On a daily basis, I appreciate that I have become part of a team, that I have already learnt a huge amount in my time here and that there is still so much more that I can gain. I would strongly recommend that you find out more about the graduate and internship opportunities at Lichfields and show your enthusiasm by applying online. The application process is open until 31 March 2017.