Nick Clegg, deputy Prime Minister and leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, has promised the highest education spending among all three major parties as the May General Election nears.
The £5bn pledge will secure the education budget, according to Clegg, and where Conservatives and Labour see cuts in the education budget, Lib Dem pledge to increase education spending per student.
The Lib Dem manifesto says that the party will guarantee education funding ‘from cradle to college’ and ensure there’s one qualified teacher in every classroom. According to the Daily Mail, Clegg is “raising the education budget for two to 19-year-olds in England to £55 billion by 2020.”
The Labour Party pledged to increase education budgets in line with inflation — something that fails to take into account that an estimated 300,000 new students will go to school in the next three years, The Independent says. According to the plans of the Lib Dems, spending in education is safeguarded in real terms until 2018. It will then increase as per economic growth trends.
The funding will help in the recruitment of additional qualified teachers and it will make possible small group learning at schools. This will help ensure that every student would be able to read by the age of eleven. According to the Lib Dems, the extra $2.5bn promised budget equals 70,000 teachers being recruited.
Before the 2010 general elections, Clegg had pledged to oppose the increase in university tuition fees and then took this promise back when his party were part of the coalition government. Clegg said his U-turn over university tuition fees was regrettable and has substantially harmed the prospects of the party.
Clegg called the Liberal Democrats “the party of education”.
“At the last election, protecting schools spending and investing huge amounts of extra money towards the poorest pupils was one of our top priorities,” he says. “I am immensely proud that we did just that in Government. But we won’t rest there. We are determined to make sure that every child in Britain has a world class education.”
Vice chair of the Labour election campaign Lucy Powell says the Lib Dems are not to be trusted:
“Nick Clegg’s promises for the future are fundamentally undermined by his actions in government. He promised to scrap tuition fees and then trebled them.”
David Laws, Minister of State for Schools and close ally to Nick Clegg, says of the Lib Dem manifesto he drafted:
“This manifesto is a serious document from a party prepared to govern. It sets out credible and deliverable liberal vision for government that builds on our achievements in coalition,” the George Parker of the Financial Times says.
In the previous parliament, the Lib Dems established a “pupil premium” which channeled education spending to students with poor backgrounds. Students with parents earning less than £16,000/year could sign up their children for free school meals. The school would get £1,320 for every signed-up student.
In the 2015 manifesto, Clegg focused on opportunity:
“Our manifesto has one simple ambition and word at its heart, opportunity. The great challenge is we have more and more young people coming into our education system, so we need to make sure that the money is there to educate every single pupil even as their numbers increase.”
The UK general election will be held May 7, 2015.