Greens promise universal early education and later formal school start

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The Green Party manifesto offers free universal early education and childcare to all children, with formal education starting at seven.

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Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party

Academies and free schools would also be brought back under local authority control, SATs would be abolished, and class sizes reduced.

Other plans for ‘education for all’ include addressing the crisis of teacher workload by abolishing Ofsted, and reforming the curriculum so that it is ‘pupil-centred, freeing up teachers to teach’.

Every child with Special Educational Needs or a disability would have access to mainstream education, in accordance with the UN Convention for Person with Disabilities.

For young people, the Green Party would reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance and enable apprenticeships for 16- to 25-year-olds.

A key economic policy is moving towards the introduction of a universal basic income, including a Government-sponsored pilot scheme.

A four-day working week would be phased in, with people working a maximum of 35 hours, and zero hours contracts would be abolished.

The gap between the highest and the lowest paid employees would be cut with the minimum wage increased to £10 an hour by 2020.

The Greens are the latest party to release their election manifesto, launched this morning in London.

Commenting on the Green’s manifesto plans for early years, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘The Green Party’s manifesto calls for free universal early years education and childcare, with formal education starting at age seven, yet contains no information explaining how many hours would be offered each week, or how this would be funded or implemented.

‘Given that the sector is currently struggling to cover the costs and address the logistics of delivering 30-hours to three- and four-year-old children of working parents, we are sceptical about how the Greens would be able to work with the sector to achieve their ideas in practice.

‘If politicians wish to win the support of the sector, they need to present us with pragmatic policies that will see neither providers, nor parents, left out of pocket.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘The Green Party’s promise of free universal childcare is very ambitious, giving much-needed support to families across the UK.

‘Currently nurseries are struggling to pay increased salary costs along with rising business rates because of successive governments bringing in schemes to offer parents “free” childcare hours. But these free hours have never been adequately funded, leaving nursery businesses burdened with massive shortfalls.

‘Any pledge to increase the current offer to parents needs to deal with the unfair funding first, then make sure all schemes have sufficient investment to allow all childcare providers to deliver high quality childcare sustainably.

‘It must be recognised that early years is a distinct stage in a child's development, with unique provision to reflect this ahead of their formal schooling. This principle is welcome, but schools and education experts should be widely consulted first on any proposal for formal education to start at the late age of seven.’        

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