Here's our quick summary of key education news from the past week. Read our recap to stay informed about key updates and discover how the upcoming general election is shaping the education sector.

We hope you find this summary insightful!

1. Political parties release their manifestos

Last week, the main political parties released their manifestos.

The Labour Party’s manifesto includes pledges to hire teachers in shortage subjects, replace Ofsted grades and ensure schools are inclusive for pupils with SEND

The Conservatives have pledged to protect "day-to-day schools spending in real terms per pupil" and, if they win the election, legislate to ban mobile phones from classrooms.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto commits to reforming Ofsted, curriculum and assessment, expanding extracurricular activities, and extending free school meals and the pupil premium.

The Green Party’s manifesto includes plans to spend almost £14 billion more on education, scrap “formal testing” in secondary schools, abolish Ofsted, and put all academies under council “control”.

2. Teacher recruitment - a top concern for the general public

Labour’s pledge to recruit 6,500 new teachers is the joint most popular education pledge yet made in the election, writes Will Yates.

A poll by Public First asked voters to choose the policies of different parties that resonated with them the most.

Labour’s promise to recruit 6,500 new teachers is the joint most popular education pledge yet made in the election.

It appealed similarly to those who voted Conservative (28%) and Labour (33%) in 2019, as the poll didn't reveal which parties had made which commitment.

Conservative's commitment to increasing the number of apprenticeships for young people and older adults emerged just as popular as Labour's recruitment pledge. This was a stronger priority among respondents intending to vote Conservative and rose with age.

However, when asked about government spending priorities, respondents only ranked education as the seventh-most popular choice.

Source: Public First Education Polling

We recently launched a new report on how different factors impact the likelihood of resignation. This report equips leaders with the knowledge needed to address retention challenges effectively, ensuring the stability and success of their school communities.

3. More schools train mental health "triage" staff amid "crisis"

Rise in teachers who report their school has recruited emotional literacy support assistants as more heads say they "can’t afford to wait" for help, writes Matilda Martin.

More than a third of teachers report that their school now has an emotional literacy support assistant (ELSA), as leaders warn schools they “can’t afford to wait” for pupils to get support from backlogged health and social services.

ELSAs are often teaching assistants (TAs) or other support staff who have undergone further training.

They can provide interventions for pupils struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety or attachment issues.

According to a survey, the proportion of teachers who said their school has an ELSA has jumped from 26% to 34% in just two years. The survey also finds that the growth in schools with such staff has been more pronounced in primaries.

Assistant general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, James Bowen, said: "The long waiting lists and high thresholds to access services like the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) are almost certainly playing a role, too, with schools knowing that they cannot afford to wait for external help to become available."

Source: More schools train mental health ‘triage’ staff amid ‘crisis’ (TES.com)

4. Leaders divided over Labour plan for Ofsted trust inspections

Labour wants Ofsted to inspect trusts, as well as individual schools, writes Lucas Cumiskey.

Earlier this year, the Labour Party announced it wants Ofsted to inspect academy trusts alongside schools - a suggestion that also appeared in the Big Listen Consultation.

This is part of a larger plan for an Ofsted overhaul, including scrapping single-phrase judgments.

In response, CST has acknowledged the change as "inevitable" but also expressed the need for a measured approach, stating it must not be “rushed." 

Steve Rollett, CST’s deputy chief executive, emphasised: "It would be essential that the sector itself is involved in shaping an approach because this is where the expertise about trusts exists."

The response from trust leaders has been divided. Many stated that the current inspection system is not ready to cope with a new burden, while others welcomed "the extra accountability."

Source: Leaders divided over Labour plan for Ofsted trust inspections (schoolsweek.co.uk)

5. Ofsted report cards: How they could work, and the hurdles

The Labour Party has vowed to "enhance the inspection regime by replacing a single headline grade with a new report card system", writes Schools Week.

Scrapping single-phrase Ofsted judgments is one of Labour’s key school policies, and it has been popular within the sector.

While a school’s overall grade still features prominently in performance tables and is used for government intervention, Ofsted tweaked its website recently to display sub-judgments more prominently.

Industry experts have speculated about what the new system could look like, naming a descriptive paragraph stating whether a school had "met expectations" in each area, as well as an online dashboard as potential solutions.

Labour has promised to consult the sector on the plans. As the changes would most likely require a new framework, experts don’t expect changes before September 2025.

Source: Ofsted report cards: How they could work, and the hurdles (schoolsweek.co.uk)