“Education is about achieving the best, about exploring possibilities and seeking new challenges, about fulfilling people’s promise for the good of themselves and the whole of society.” Liberal Democrat policy

What is the challenge?

The Tory government has cut school and college budgets harshly with Wiltshire receiving some of the lowest per pupil funding in England. They have also focused too heavily on test results at the expense of giving children a good all-round education and preparing them for life. Councils used to run a majority of state schools, but the government has allowed many to become ‘academies’ that manage themselves and this can mean that they collaborate less than before.  Today councils have limited but important powers in education but they can still take measures to maintain opportunities for all, particularly among pre-school age children, and maximise efficiency. .   Our residents also lack access to sufficient Further and Higher Education provision and this needs to be addressed with clear sight of the rapidly accelerating online learning trends.

What will we do?

We will do all in our power to create a more collaborative education system that caters for every child, with a particular focus on areas where the council has scope to act, such as early years and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

In Wiltshire, a Liberal Democrat Council will:

  • Fight for fairer funding for education from central Government as Wiltshire is near the bottom of the funding league;
  • Work to narrow the gap in educational opportunity and provision between the most socially advantaged and disadvantaged pupils;
  • Review special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision to ensure that needs are met as close to home as possible and are community centred, with families’ voices being heard, including improving transport;
  • Accelerate efforts to work with academies, increasing all school, countywide cooperation and sharing best practice to create sustainable school-led performance improvement;
  • Review ‘alternative provision’ for those children who need to be taught away from mainstream schools as a result of exclusion, illness or other reasons, including the high number of children with SEND who have been excluded;
  • Ensure that education needs are considered when placing a child into care;
  • Make small rural schools with relatively high costs per child more sustainable by increasing federation and support among non-academy schools;
  • Review school transport arrangements to improve access to extra-curricular activities, especially for those in remote areas;
  • Ensure that data on ‘home-schooled’ pupils is maintained so no child goes missing from the education system;
  • Review early years and school places provision to ensure adequate places for all are available at suitable sites and that the schools’ capital investment programme meets these needs; 
  • Explore opportunities to increase higher education collaborations as Wiltshire is one of a handful of counties with no university;
  • Review and improve lifelong learning opportunities for all Wiltshire residents;
  • Encourage the enrichment of the curriculum, for example through music, art, drama and sport for all, rather than focusing narrowly on tested subjects and relegating cultural and sporting activities to extra-curricular status. 

Immediate priorities

  • Review school transport provision;

  • Review travel limits of school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities; (SEND) against long term school plans;

  • Review early years and school places provision;

  • Review alternative provision across the county to ensure the solutions meet the needs of our communities; 
  • Assess countywide digital learning experiences and accelerate accessibility, including provision of tablets and laptops (possibly recycled) high quality on-line learning materials  and access to affordable broadband for remote learning.
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