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THE WORKERS PARTY

Education & Youth Manifesto out for consultation

An outstanding action from our party congress and the publication earlier this year of our Manifesto, was the drafting of an Education & Youth Manifesto. We now put this before the public for comment.

Workers Party of Britain

Life-Long Education  and Working Class Youth

A Manifesto

Key Points

  • Our educational policy is grounded on an improvement in the material conditions of the working class, both as parents and as young persons
  • We are already committed to an extension of free school travel nationally and to improved and free school meal provision, for all children.
  • We support the rights of the family unit and the rights of parents to be the best judges of their children’s interests.
  • We will raise the standards of protection and provisions for children in care; ensure their safety is appropriately managed by multi-disciplinary teams and are regularly scrutinised and monitored.
  • We will undertake a thorough review of the National Curriculum by engaging the very best educators and innovators to enhance the outcomes of all children.
  • We will abolish OFSTED and create a system of supervision and coaching of school staff, whilst returning the day-to-day control of education, within a national framework, to officials in our Local Authorities.
  • We have an absolute commitment, not merely to apprenticeships, but to making free and affordable vocational education central to our national education strategy.
  • Universities are now private business entities. We will therefore, bring our complex and out-of-control University system back under national scrutiny, whilst scrapping tuition fees and ensuring guarantees for full academic freedom.
  • We recognise the increasing alienation of our youth under the current, collapsing educational system: we will make efforts to reverse this by building new and better schools, fit for the 21st Century, by bringing back common-sense and inclusive curriculum subjects fit for purpose in a modern Britain.

From the Cradle to the Grave – Nurturing the Mind

The colossal waste of human talent in our country has been the ultimate price we have paid for neo-liberal economics and domination by a corrupt and self-centred elite. But what has been done to us by that elite goes far beyond economics. It has sapped the self-confidence of working people and it has confused class-based education with intelligence and worth.

As John Lennon once put it, “as soon as you’re born, they make you feel small by giving you no time instead of it all” and this despite the enormous and dedicated efforts of tens of thousands of teachers and educators who have to work within a system that is designed to train us to be productive units in systems of profit instead of rounded, happy, creative and socially useful individuals.

In our main National Manifesto, the Workers Party of Britain dealt with the material conditions that are necessary to improve the minds of our young. These ranged from quality housing through to good nutrition exemplified by one of our flagship policies – free school breakfasts across the country designed to ensure that every child gets what they need to think straight in the class room. Please refer to that Manifesto for a full sense of our ambition.

This mini-manifesto takes our concern further – to adopt a ‘cradle to the grave approach’ to life-long learning, which deals with the need to create a work force that can meet its own aspirations whilst being flexible enough to deal with technological change, social needs and the need to nurture individual talent and self improvement on equal terms.

Pedagogy will shift its emphasis from capital to labour through all forms of education: technical skills, critical thought, knowledge-based, creative and even political, from early years through to secondary, further education and apprenticeships to higher education undertaken well into old age, if desired.

Education providers would work in a partnership between parents, children, adolescents and teachers.  Parents need support to give time and resources to the needs of their children. Children and adolescents need to be understood and not entrained and controlled as inconveniences to be managed until fit for a call centre or conscription. And teachers and educators need to be respected and their morale made central to the national education strategy.

Recapitulation – What We Said in Our Manifesto

The material conditions of working-class children are critical to their success although, of course, education is more than this. Nevertheless, adequate housing and social protection are key to meeting working class educational aspirations.

We will ensure that no working class child is disadvantaged because of their background or locality and that those that want to get on are actively encouraged at any time in their lives to learn and apply their skills. Education is a key social infrastructure.

This means small class sizes, teachers who are trusted to teach without administrative target-driven nonsense, investment in extra-curricular subjects like the arts and music, as well as sports. An atmosphere of equitable encouragement of all, according to their abilities. Comprehensive online safety education and policy development that ensures healthy, protective and age-appropriate online behaviour, and zero tolerance towards bullying and abuse.

Two of our flagship policies are focused on children’s key material needs: first, we are committed to the extension of free public travel arrangements for all children extending the current age restrictions from 11 to 16; second, we support the provision of free, good quality and nutritious breakfast and lunch meals during term time to all children in school without means testing and the introduction of access to low cost, but nutritious meals, out of term time, in targeted areas.

To the Workers Party of Britain, education is a life-long process. We deplore the way that a Labour Government became complicit in turning it into a global capitalist business churning out vast numbers of young people at home and overseas with worsening standards under increasingly stressed academics. Labour has created an indebted intellectual underclass.

We would change this model for education entirely. First, by guaranteeing a right to a free tuition first degree that could be taken at any time during one’s life so as to end the pressure for young people to take on debt before they have any idea what they want to do with their lives. Tuition fees will be a thing of the past and debt for low-income graduates cancelled.

We would financially support vocational education, apprenticeships and trades education that met the aspiration of any worker to get employment that could allow them to live a better standard of living in an economy that may require frequent changes in skills.

All this is the very grounding of our policy towards children and youth regardless of class or background. We have a commitment to improving the prospects of British working-class children especially in disadvantaged areas of Britain. This mini manifesto expands on these themes and ensures our seriousness of purpose.

Support for Parents

No one owns a child. Children are their own people with the potential to become responsible adults with lives of their own, making their own choices. However, no one denies that children are also vulnerable especially in the early years and, for different reasons, during adolescence as they discover their own individuality.

The Workers Party of Britain gives priority of rights of care to parents. It sees the State as only creating the conditions of support for parents, providing the material conditions and services that will allow the working class child to flourish and meet their aspirations, to ensure vulnerable children are protected and to instil an understanding that individual aspiration must be met within a framework of social responsibility.

In other words, the State must not take the place of parents unless absolutely necessary. It is for parents to give their children the appropriate moral and religious, or non-religious framework, within their culture. The child is free to rebel against it or not, in later years, but it is not for society to interfere in that process.

Parents cannot do their job if they are struggling financially in poor housing conditions and forced to work long hours that place stress on relationships and lead to family breakdown. While family structures are a matter for individuals and households, those who want a functional family life, require the material resources to maintain them. It is our firm belief that family breakdown is related to the pressures created by the collapse of the UK’s social contract.

We are deeply concerned at the anti-natalist (those who believe it is wrong or morally unjustifiable to have children) prejudices of the elitist class  who have redefined us as units of individual production; who deal with reduced fertility rates with the easy solution of mass uncontrolled immigration, instead of securing the lives of those who live permanently in the country, regardless of background. We continue to support the right to choose, as a personal matter in regard to abortion and contraception, but we abhor the situation where women who want children feel they cannot have a family because of their economic circumstances.

Our approach to this is materialist; to improve material conditions and support young parents with appropriate counselling and practical support, especially during the first seven years of their child’s life. We see early-stage nursery education as vital in building the confidence of the working class. We will redirect funding to support it, but not on the grounds of forcing women into the work force if they choose to stay home to raise their own children – the most important job in the world.

Child Protection & Vulnerable and SEND Adolescents

The vast majority of parents must be assumed to know what they are doing. Although mistakes can be made, mistakes are how we learn. There is no place for a “Nanny State” that watches every move of the parent and destroys their confidence with constant interference.

However, a small minority of parents will be destructive of the potential of their children. We have to recognise this. Child abuse within families, religious institutions or private boarding schools can no longer be tolerated. We will invest in multi-disciplinary teams, comprised of social workers, teachers and therapists to maximise child protection.

Social Services has been in crisis for years. It really is shocking when you work with children, how difficult it is to speak with a social worker. Social workers have a lot of time off sick due to workload and the stress of the job. High numbers of social workers leave the profession, and this leads to children falling through gaps in the system. The only constant that some children have in their lives are school staff so this social services crisis must be addressed. We will invest in training more social workers, tackle the bureaucracy created in the profession and ensure there is fully joined-up multi-disciplinary teams with monitored digital communications.

We are shocked by the institutional arrangements that have been implemented to deal with vulnerable adolescents. The police are not social workers and should not have to fulfil that function, so we need a more co-ordinated approach between police and social services nation wide in order to transfer vulnerable children into a caring system that is fully funded.

In the view of the Workers Party of Britain, children should not be punished for the failures of a broken system. The idea that the care system is just a holding pen for vulnerable individuals to be thrown out on the street when they reach a certain age, is not only cruel, but feeds alternative systems like organised crime and perpetuates the cycle of damage.

We will change the whole national ethos towards these children. We are not naïve about the predatory psychopath in society. Our most vulnerable children and adolescents should be resourced on equal terms to the rest of society, with a duty of care well beyond 16 and through to adult independence (conventionally 21). These should be viewed as ‘society’s children’.

We must also face the cultural problem of paedophilia and child sexual exploitation. This is an issue that can emerge wherever there is a cowardly refusal to recognise and deal with the matter decisively. We will follow the social science but be resolute in stamping out all non-consensual sexual predation wherever it takes place.

The previous reforms to the SEND system set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 have failed to achieve the goal of improving provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities. We seek to complement high quality teaching with carefully selected small-group and one-to-one interventions, employing well trained and appropriately remunerated teaching staff, who will specialise in bespoke provision for SEND students. Education Health Care Plans (EHCP) should be written by people who have holistic understanding of the needs of the child in conjunction with teaching staff and parents. We will close the gap in SEND funding and clear council deficits to ensure that children have access to the same opportunities as their peers. It is important that all children, no matter their ability, are supported to achieve their maximum potential.

The School Curriculum & Child Morale

The teaching and academic professions have become increasingly demoralised by a culture of managerialism and targets. There is merit in setting some standards and targets for basic skills. We consider these to be numeracy and literacy to which we would add basic training in understanding personal finance, digital skills, gender-specific personal health care and gender-neutral home economics and nutrition which are all essential in navigating adulthood and increasing personal potential.

The Workers Party aims to concentrate equal attention on two separate strands in educational development and then allow children and adults in education to follow the paths most useful to them in terms of character, economic aspiration, social value and opportunity.

The first strand is that of increased respect for vocational work expressed in our policy of apprenticeships (see below) and de-privileging the machinery of mass university education (also see below). The educational system in this respect needs to see more emphasis on practical skills for those children whose aspirations are practical or creative – digital labs, scientific method, hands-on engineering, food preparation, music, art, human biology. Sharing of facilities between schools will build capacity for practical experience in ‘doing’ things that will increase personal confidence but also value to the community.

The second strand is education rather than training – an attitude of mind that helps as many children as possible to see the world and its structures of power and control for what they are and make informed decisions about how they want to live in the world and how they can contribute to society. This second strand in our education does not require the same type of capacity as in the case of training.

The capacity required in this latter case is high quality well rewarded teachers able to talent spot the best minds able to contribute to society as socially responsible individuals, community leaders and administrators.  This is an education based on critical and analytical thinking, the honest study of national and imperial history, questioning of authority and problem-solving. Consequently, we will explore existing research and educational models that eschew examinations at 16, a system that was designed to assess children departing from education at this age and create a provision that gives students more time to develop a range of skills, knowledge and creative endeavours.

Community Authority and Educational Localism

Who governs our schools is a matter of national importance. Power over our children’s education has been taken away from our localities. It has been left in a limbo between national dictation of standards and alleged parental rights that are a figment of the political imagination. In parts of the country, we have formal selection and in other parts informal selection.

Our inner cities and poorest areas get the least attention. There is no appreciation that talented working-class students may want to live in and serve their local communities and not be forced by the market to seek alleged opportunities in ‘global cities’.  The middle classes flock to expensive private schools. The upper classes cement their privilege through the public school system which has absurdly been given charitable status. This situation cannot continue. Locality and community matter. Give the young the resources. They will create vibrant economic communities.

The Workers Party of Britain is committed to a national non-selective system of education in which funding is full but directed more to low-achieving areas than high-achieving areas until we have levelled up outcomes between the classes. We are prejudiced in favour of working-class children.

This means that elite tolerance for private education is no longer acceptable. The charitable status of educational establishments will be ended as a priority. We have no intention of forcing the closure of private schools in the short to medium term because the second stage of our project must prove that the public education system can deliver outcomes as good as if not better than the private system. As with private healthcare, we simply want to make private education irrelevant.

The basic framework for national education will be set along the lines outlined in the previous section. Central authority will have reserve powers to intervene if the general principles behind that framework are breached. The job of our educators is to facilitate learning whilst encouraging children to be critical thinkers. Not to dictate current Governmental fads.

However, our intention is to return the school system to the people through local authorities within that framework. In our view, local people should vote for their representatives on the local education committees on a regular basis under conditions where those representatives can be judged on their outcomes. The WPB will itself seek to build a presence in these authorities.

Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, the Workers Party of Britain has no intention of changing the status of non-private faith-based community schools on the understanding that they maintain the national framework and operate their faith-based aspects in a non-authoritarian way permitting conscientious objection to attendance at religious events at a certain age.

Apprenticeships

The Workers Party of Britain is committed to the advancement of the interests of the working class. In educational terms this means that we want to encourage the social mobility of workers into management and administration, but without creating the conditions by which those who benefit from education pull the ladder up behind them. The working class will pay for the education of administrators, technologists and scientists on the understanding that their work will benefit the whole of society.

On the other hand, the aspirations of most working class people are to ensure that they can provide for their families and live a good life in long term security. This is often best met by ensuring not merely full employment but the availability of solid and lasting skilled and semi-skilled jobs in the community. The Workers Party will act vigorously to bring back a national culture of apprenticeship.

This commitment is closely linked to our 2024 Manifesto commitment to enhanced workers’ control. Worker members on company boards will be expected to promote a skills and training policy distinct from the management control explicit in human resources ideology with proper supervision of workplace learning and apprenticeship.

Approved vocational education training, notably in the emergent new technologies but also in industrial engineering and key service sectors, will be free to all participants up to the age of 29 with close independent regulation of expenditures on training to ensure the apprenticeships are high quality and geared to the economic situation. State support should be specific to the needs of the worker and society and not be used to subsidise the needs of businesses and their shareholders.

We review our critical stance towards Labour’s strategy of mass university education below (which is not to be interpreted as negativity towards higher education). In our view, we have a fundamental lack of technical institutes. Some universities in the former polytechnic sector should now be converted into such institutes with a heavy bias towards new technology requirements, export-led industrial expansion and essential services.

Given the level of intellectual attainment and skill required to meet national new technology needs, the highest level of technical education should have the same status as university degrees but should be structured around practical work in industry and government. Similarly, legislation will require all firms above a certain size to have a training policy and smaller firms will be supported in creating such policies.

De-Privileging the Academic Business Model – Respecting Academic Values

The Workers Party of Britain values academic attainment and pure research in higher education. However, we have seen an unfortunate effect of Labour’s expansion of the university sector beyond its value to society. Degree inflation has driven our young people into thousands of pounds of debt, without knowing if those degrees will lead to opportunities in employment. Universities are designed to fund an overweight and inefficient academic sector, whose main purpose is to earn foreign currency, through attracting overseas students.

Higher education has turned into yet another global business where the main winners are excessively paid administrators and managers. The academic community has been devalued. Students are often ‘ripped off’ considering the attention and support they receive.

Our main task is to reduce the sector to a manageable size, but not by reducing opportunity. The two key innovations we would propose, would be the transfer of a proportion of smaller universities (see previous section) to the vocational technical sector designed to accommodate British working class students, largely without tuition fees. These institutions would not be marketed, as is currently the case, to overseas students.

The second task is to extend the life of university education by making it available to all age cohorts of the population at any time in their lives for personal and creative development. This is at the root of one of our flagship 2024 Manifesto policies – the guarantee of a free university first degree for everyone which can be to be taken at any time in their life, including old age if they so chose.

No longer would young people be driven into university before they are sure about what to do with their lives. They can experiment in the job market or with vocational education and then come to higher education with more maturity and understanding. Naturally, we are mindful of the grave injustice done to the Blairite and post-Blairite generation in being saddled with debt. We will undertake a review of this debt, with a mind to reduce or eliminate it over time.

We will also be bringing all universities under national administrative control. The so-called elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge can no longer expect to function as finishing schools for the upper middle classes, cherry picking working class and ethnic minority students, and turning them into second division members of the elite.

None of our reforms will affect the integrity of academic research. On the contrary, we will guarantee freedom to publish and exchange information, without political interference, as part of our policy in support of freedom of speech and against de-platforming.  At the highest level we see no problem at all with workers financing the pure research of our greatest minds.

Social Commitment and British Youth

The major debate we want to see is one about priorities. We see education as a process of asking fundamental questions about who has power and how they hold on to it to the detriment of all generations and about why we allow tiny groups of men and women to drive us remorselessly into futile wars and injustices. We also want the young to ask questions about the competence of these people. All this requires an emphasis on an education in critical thinking about our situation.

Teachers and academics are not the only ones demoralised by the current system. As the recent (February 2023) report ‘Young Lives, Young Futures’ sponsored by the ESCR has demonstrated, our young are alienated by the very educational structures that are supposed to enliven them and give them reasons for engagement and optimism. The curriculum is not working for them. School has become a stressful experience in which social control and management is self-evidently more important than listening to our kids. Bullying is still not being handled adequately.

Most of the preceding measures involve the community reforming a broken system and establishing new standards to benefit the working class and the nation rather than the globally mobile middle class and rootless executives.  Many of the latter are on a treadmill and would welcome liberating.

Young people more generally are not there to be manipulated or directed. A degree of generational conflict is useful and creative if it comes up with fresh ways of thinking.  The young want and need material improvement in their lives, above all in the reduction of housing costs whether rental or in getting their first family home, in the opportunity to buy a car, in the ability to pay high service bills and in the avoidance of debt – all the problems faced by the working class as a whole.

Young people believe that the dice has been loaded against them by older generations although all working-class generations are equally victims of the false promise of Thatcherite and Blairite neo-liberal economics.  Young people want independence and the Workers Party of Britain recognises that need.

Our strategy for freedom of speech and protest and against de-platforming also includes acceptance of non-violent youthful protest as part of the process of keeping the rest of society alive and on its toes. Any suggestion that the Workers Party of Britain is authoritarian could not be further from the truth.

What we would hope to see is the channelling of youthful idealism and energy into positive social change in the national and working-class interest. As a Party we will encourage that energy. We may not always agree with the direction of travel of some youthful idealism but it has to be heard just as we should listen to the practical needs and experience of mid-generation households and the experience and wisdom of the elderly.


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