Tax, tax and a bit more about tax: that’s been the main theme of the Liberal Democrat conference, from the slogan on badges and the banner outside the building through to the content of speeches and the main policy focus of the media coverage.
When it comes to new policy announcements at Lib Dem conference, however, it is education that has had a strong showing.
First there was the news on summer schools:
Lib Dems announce further £100m for summer schools to help children catch-up
Mr Laws said: “All too often pupils who have made big progress through the school year fall behind over the long summer holiday, particularly if they are changing schools.
“Over 2,000 secondary schools took part in that programme this summer and the feedback we received was fantastic, so I am announcing today that we are allocating a further £100 million to continue this project in 2013 and 2014.”
Then there was the plans for a ‘nursery premium‘:
Following a motion passed at the party’s annual conference, the Liberal Democrats confirmed their intention to conduct a feasibility study into plans for a nursery premium…
Meanwhile, schools minister David Laws announced that the pupil premium would rise by 50 per cent next year. From 2013, schools will receive £900 for each disadvantaged child, as opposed to the £600 currently available.
The figure is set to increase again in 2014, with the party pledging to spend a total £2.5bn on the supplement, which is available for children eligible for free school meals or in care.
Laws said the extra £300 would mean a secondary school of 1,000 pupils with a third on the pupil premium would receive an extra £300,000 next year, but admitted that there is “much more to do” to make sure that schools spend the cash on the things that make the most difference to children.
Now there’s further news of a new fund to help children catch-up ahead of exams:
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced eleven-year-olds with poor maths and reading skills will get extra tuition in a £50 million-a-year bid to prepare them for tougher new exams.
Under the so-called “catch up premium”, secondary heads in England will get £500 to spend on intense classes for every pupil who arrives at their school without having achieved the expected level in either skill.
UPDATE: And there was one more that I missed first time round –
The government is to give councils in England £100m to help meet its promise of providing free nursery places for 100,000 two-year-olds…
The £100m is intended to go into capital spending, such as converting part of an existing building into extra nursery space.
A Lib Dem spokesman said councils would not be told how to spend the money, but added that they had a legal obligation to ensure provision of places in their area.
He added: “What we are looking at doing is the equivalent of creating an extra 200 primary schools.”