The World’s Great Meritocracy is part of the Conservative Parties 2017 General Election Manifesto.
Conservative Manifesto 2017 – The World’s Great Meritocracy
Theresa May’s Conservatives will deliver
- More good school places, ending the ban on selective schools and asking universities and independent schools to help run state schools.
- World class technical education, underpinned by prestigious new institutes of technology with the freedoms that make our universities great.
- A government unafraid to confront the burning injustices of the gender pay gap, racial disparity, the stigma of mental health and disability discrimination.
- Protections for victims of domestic abuse in law through a new landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.
- Fairer markets for consumers and action on the cost of living, including a safeguard tariff cap to protect energy customers from unacceptable rises.
- Controlled, sustainable migration, with net migration down to the tens of thousands.
We have done much in recent years to break down longstanding divisions in our country. Yet some social injustices endure. If you are at a state school you are less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you are a white, working-class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you are black, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white. If you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you are a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help at hand. These are burning injustices that damage the unity of our country, and we will address them.
The truth is that if we are to make Britain the world’s Great Meritocracy, we also need to do much more to support millions of people who live in ordinary, working families. Because life is often much harder for these families than many in positions of power seem to realise. They might have a job, but not always job security; they might be homeowners, but they worry about paying the mortgage and wonder if their children will be able to afford a home of their own; they can just about manage, but worry about the cost of living and getting their children into a good school. They deserve a government that is on their side.
A COUNTRY FOUNDED ON MERIT
The greatest injustice in Britain today is that your life is still largely determined not by your efforts and talents but by where you come from, who your parents are and what schools you attend. This is wrong. We want to make Britain the world’s Great Meritocracy: a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will allow, where advantage is based on merit not privilege. To succeed, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, can have a world-class education.
More good school places
We are proud of our reforms to education, which are giving millions of children a better start in life than they could have expected a decade ago. Thanks to our school reforms – such as the establishment of free schools and academies, and changes to ensure a rigorous curriculum – there are more good and outstanding schools today than ever before. There are now more than 1.8 million more children in schools rated good and outstanding than in 2010. The proportion of pupils taking core academic subjects at GCSE has almost doubled.
There remains a long way to go. For too many children, a good school remains out of reach. There are still 1 million children in primary and secondary schools rated by Ofsted as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’. If schools across the Midlands and north of England had the same average standards as those in the south, nearly 200,000 more children would be attending good schools. We need to give every child in our country the best possible education if we are to provide them with the best opportunities in the world.
To achieve that ambition we will have to go further in reforming our education system. So we will continue with our programme of free schools, building at least a hundred new free schools a year. We will prohibit councils from creating any new places in schools that have been rated either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.
We will make it a condition for universities hoping to charge maximum tuition fees to become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools. We will introduce new funding arrangements so we can open a specialist maths school in every major city in England. We will replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools, instead requiring new faith schools to prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school. We will work with the Independent Schools Council to ensure that at least 100 leading independent schools become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools in the state system, keeping open the option of changing the tax status of independent schools if progress is not made.
We will lift the ban on the establishment of selective schools, subject to conditions, such as allowing pupils to join at other ages as well as eleven. Contrary to what some people allege, official research shows that slightly more children from ordinary, working class families attend selective schools as a percentage of the school intake compared to non-selective schools. While the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils stands at 25 per cent across the country, at selective schools it falls to almost zero.
These changes will have a great effect, but alone they cannot overcome the unfairness of selection by house price, where ordinary, working class families find it difficult to access the best schools because they cannot afford to live in the catchment area. We will therefore conduct a review of school admissions policy. We will be clear at the outset that we will never introduce a mandatory lottery-based school admissions policy.
A knowledge-rich curriculum
Our reforms to what is taught in schools have been profound. We have addressed grade inflation and poor standards and developed a world-class curriculum. This has meant considerable change for pupils, teachers and schools. So now we will help them consolidate those gains, starting with the early building blocks of learning.
A Conservative government will strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years so that all pupils – regardless of background – get the best possible start in life. We will build on the success of the phonics screening test. We will expect every 11-year-old to know their times tables off by heart. To maintain progress as children go through secondary school, we will improve schools’ accountability at key stage 3. We will expect 75 per cent of pupils to have been entered for the EBacc combination of GCSEs by the end of the next parliament, with 90 per cent of pupils studying this combination of academic GCSEs by 2025.
We will ensure all children have access to an academic, knowledge-rich curriculum. We will introduce a curriculum fund to encourage Britain’s leading cultural and scientific institutions, like the British Museum and others to help develop knowledge-rich materials for our schools, and we will ensure that assessments at the end of primary school draw from a rich knowledge base, and reduce teaching to the test. We will consider how Ofsted can give parents more information on what their children are being taught.
We want great people to become teachers, teach in our most challenging schools and stay there. We will continue to provide bursaries to attract top graduates into teaching. To help new teachers remain in the profession, we will offer forgiveness on student loan repayments while they are teaching and bring in dedicated support to help them throughout their careers.
We will provide greater support for teachers in the preparation of lessons and marking, including through the use of technology, and we will bear down on unnecessary paperwork and the burden of Ofsted inspections. We will create a single jobs portal, like NHS Jobs, for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers.
The way funding is distributed to schools in England is not fair. Across the country, children with the same needs and expectations receive markedly different rates of funding for their school place. We have begun to correct this and in the next parliament we will make funding fairer still. We appreciate that it is hard for schools receiving a higher level of funding to make cuts in order to pay for increases elsewhere, so while we will make funding fairer over the course of the parliament, we will make sure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula. We will increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion by 2022, representing more than a real terms increase for every year of the parliament. We will continue to protect the Pupil Premium to support those who need it.
In order to fund these commitments, we have taken an important decision. We do not believe that giving school lunches to all children free of charge for the first three years of primary school – regardless of the income of their parents – is a sensible use of public money. There is now good evidence that school breakfasts are at least as effective in helping children to make progress in school. So under a new Conservative government, schools in England will offer a free school breakfast to every child in every year of primary school, while children from low-income families will continue to receive free school lunches throughout their years in primary and secondary education. The savings made from this change will be added to the core schools budget, meaning that every penny saved will go towards children’s education.
World-class technical education
For too long in this country, technical excellence has not been valued as highly as academic success. We want British technical education to be as prestigious as our world-leading higher education system, and for technical education in this country to rival the best technical systems in the world.
This will require bold reform of the funding, institutional and qualifications frameworks for technical education, in partnership with British industry. We have already introduced high quality apprenticeships that can reach to degree level and beyond for the 200,000 young people who choose to enter full-time vocational study after their GCSEs each year. We now need to go further to improve technical education and offer young people a real choice between technical and academic routes at sixteen.
We will start by replacing 13,000 existing technical qualifications with new qualifications, known as T-levels, across fifteen routes in subjects including construction, creative and design, digital, engineering and manufacturing, and health and science. We will increase the number of teaching hours by fifty per cent to an average of 900 hours per year and make sure that each student does a three-month work placement as part of their course. And we will extend our reforms to the highest levels of technical qualification.
We will invest in further education colleges to make sure they have world-class equipment and facilities and will create a new national programme to attract experienced industry professionals to work in FE colleges.
We will establish new institutes of technology, backed by leading employers and linked to leading universities, in every major city in England. They will provide courses at degree level and above, specialising in technical disciplines, such as STEM, whilst also providing higher-level apprenticeships and bespoke courses for employers. They will enjoy the freedoms that make our universities great, including eligibility for public funding for productivity and skills research, and access to loans and grants for their students. They will be able to gain royal charter status and regius professorships in technical education. Above all, they will become anchor institutions for local, regional and national industry, providing sought-after skills to support the economy, and developing their own local identity to make sure they can meet the skills needs of local employers.
To ensure that further, technical and higher education institutions are treated fairly, we will also launch a major review of funding across tertiary education as a whole, looking at how we can ensure that students get access to financial support that offers value for money, is available across different routes and encourages the development of the skills we need as a country.
We will put employers at the centre of these reforms. We will deal with local skills shortages and ensure that colleges deliver the skills required by local businesses through Skills Advisory Panels and Local Enterprise Partnerships working at a regional and local level. We will deliver our commitment to create 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020 and in doing so we will drive up the quality of apprenticeships to ensure they deliver the skills employers need. We will allow large firms to pass levy funds to small firms in their supply chain, and work with the business community to develop a new programme to allow larger firms to place apprentices in their supply chains. We will explore teaching apprenticeships sponsored by major companies, especially in STEM subjects.
Lastly, we will make the system easier for young people taking technical and vocational routes. We will introduce a UCAS-style portal for technical education. We will introduce significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices to ensure that no young person is deterred from an apprenticeship due to travel costs.
We will in the next parliament produce the best programme of learning and training for people in work and returning to work in the developed world.
We will help all workers seeking to develop their skills in their existing jobs by introducing a new right to request leave for training for all employees. Alongside this, we will help workers to stay in secure jobs as the economy changes by introducing a national retraining scheme. Under the scheme, the costs of training will be met by the government, with companies able to gain access to the Apprenticeship Levy to support wage costs during the training period.
We will break down the barriers to public sector workers taking on more qualified roles because of their prior educational attainment. For instance, we will ensure that teaching assistants can become qualified teachers and healthcare assistants can become nurses via a degree apprenticeship route, in addition to other routes.
We will equip people with the digital skills they need now, and in the future, by introducing a right to lifelong learning in digital skills, just as we have done for literacy and numeracy.
More people in work
Employment is at a record high and we will continue to strive for full employment. We will continue to run the welfare system in accordance with our belief that work is the best route out of poverty, that work should always pay, and that the system should be fair both to the people in need of support and those who pay for it. We have no plans for further radical welfare reform in this parliament and will continue the roll-out of Universal Credit, to ensure that it always pays to be in work.
We will also work to help those groups who have in the past found it difficult to get employment, by incentivising employers to take them on. So for businesses employing former wards of the care system, someone with a disability, those with chronic mental health problems, those who have committed a crime but who have repaid their debt to society, and those who have been unemployed for over a year, we will offer a holiday on their employers’ National Insurance Contributions for a full year. We will also provide targeted support for young people between the ages of 18 and 24 so that everyone, no matter what their start in life, is given the very best chance of getting into work.
A COUNTRY THAT COMES TOGETHER
Britain is an open economy and a welcoming society and we will always ensure that our British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world and Britain’s world-class universities can attract international students. We also believe that immigration should be controlled and reduced, because when immigration is too fast and too high, it is difficult to build a cohesive society.
Thanks to Conservatives in government, there is now more control in the system. The nature of the immigration we have – more skilled workers and university students, less abuse and fewer unskilled migrants – better suits the national interest. But with annual net migration standing at 273,000, immigration to Britain is still too high. It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.
We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union. We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas. We will toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards. We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded. Overseas students will remain in the immigration statistics – in line with international definitions – and within scope of the government’s policy to reduce annual net migration.
Leaving the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too. We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs.
Integrating divided communities
Britain is one of the world’s most successful multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious societies. We are proud of our diversity, and the cultural and economic enrichment it brings.
The enjoyment and pride we take in our diversity should not cause us to ignore the fact that in too many parts of our country, we have communities that are divided, often along racial or religious lines. To address this, we will bring forward a new integration strategy, which will seek to help people in more isolated communities to engage with the wider world, help women in particular into the workplace, and teach more people to speak English. We will work with schools to make sure that those with intakes from one predominant racial, cultural or religious background teach their students about pluralistic, British values and help them to get to know people with different ways of life.
Our enjoyment of Britain’s diversity must not prevent us from confronting the menace of extremism. Extremism, especially Islamist extremism, strips some British people, especially women, of the freedoms they should enjoy, undermines the cohesion of our society and can fuel violence. To defeat extremism, we need to learn from how civil society and the state took on racism in the twentieth century. We will consider what new criminal offences might need to be created, and what new aggravated offences might need to be established, to defeat the extremists. We will support the public sector and civil society in identifying extremists, countering their messages and promoting pluralistic, British values. And we will establish a Commission for Countering Extremism to identify examples of extremism and expose them, to support the public sector and civil society, and help the government to identify policies to defeat extremism and promote pluralistic values.
CONFRONTING BURNING INJUSTICES
To make Britain the world’s Great Meritocracy, where your talent and hard work, not who you are or where you come from, determine your life chances, we must look beyond divisions in educational opportunity. We must tackle the burning injustices that Theresa May identified on the steps of Downing Street last year: longstanding, entrenched injustices that affect people of different ethnicities, genders and those with disabilities and mental ill health.
The gender pay gap
We will take measures to close the gender pay gap. We will require companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women. We shall continue to work for parity in the number of public appointments going to women, and we shall push for an increase in the number of women sitting on boards of companies.
We will take steps to improve take-up of shared parental leave and help companies provide more flexible work environments that help mothers and fathers to share parenting. We want to help those who have been caring for a child or children for a number of years or supporting an elderly relative. For these people, returning to work can be daunting: things have moved on and people worry that their skills have been eroded. We will address this, providing parents and carers with the confidence to return to work when and how they wish. So we will support companies to take on parents and carers returning to work after long periods of absence and back similar schemes in the public sector, including the country’s biggest employer, our NHS.
The race gap
Theresa May’s first act as prime minister was to order an unprecedented audit of racial disparity across public services, to reveal the outcomes experienced by people of different ethnicities. That audit reports in July and a Conservative government will not hesitate to act on its findings, however uncomfortable they may be.
Alongside that assault on injustice, we will tackle those issues we already know about head on. We will strengthen the enforcement of equalities law – so that private landlords and businesses who deny people a service on the basis of ethnicity, religion or gender are properly investigated and prosecuted. We will legislate to mandate changes in police practices if ‘stop and search’ does not become more targeted and ‘stop to arrest’ ratios do not improve. We will reduce the disproportionate use of force against Black, Asian and ethnic minority people in prison, young offender institutions and secure mental health units and we will legislate here too if progress is not made. We will launch a national campaign to increase the number of Black, Asian and ethnic minority organ donors to cut the long waiting times for patients from those groups and save more lives. We will also ask large employers to publish information on the pay gap for people from different ethnic backgrounds.
The mental health gap
It was Conservatives in government that gave parity of esteem to the treatment of mental health in the National Health Service. We have backed this with a significant increase in funding: since 2010 we have increased spending on mental health each year to a record £11.4 billion in 2016/17, with a further investment of £1 billion by 20/21, so that we can deliver the mental health services people deserve. We will now build on this commitment.
First, we will address the need for better treatments across the whole spectrum of mental health conditions. We will make the UK the leading research and technology economy in the world for mental health, bringing together public, private and charitable investment.
Improving treatment services will not be sufficient, however. We will also reform outdated laws to ensure that those with mental illness are treated fairly and employers fulfil their responsibilities effectively.
The current Mental Health Act does not operate as it should: if you are put on a community treatment order it is very difficult to be discharged; sectioning is too often used to detain rather than treat; families’ information about their loved ones is severely curtailed – parents can be the last to learn that their son or daughter has been sectioned. So we will introduce the first new Mental Health Bill for thirty-five years, putting parity of esteem at the heart of treatment.
We will transform how mental health is regarded in the workplace. We will amend health and safety regulations so that employers provide appropriate first aid training and needs-assessment for mental health, as they currently do for risks to physical health, and extend Equalities Act protections against discrimination to mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating. We will consider the findings of the Stevenson-Farmer Review into workplace mental health support, working with employers to encourage new products and incentives to improve the mental health and wellbeing support available to their employees. And, as we did with Dementia Friends, we will train one million members of the public in basic mental health awareness and first aid to break the stigma of mental illness.
The disability gap
We will build on the proud Conservative record in supporting those with disabilities, including the landmark Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. We want to see attitudes to disability shift as they have for race, gender and sexuality in recent years: it should be completely unacceptable for people with disabilities to be treated negatively.
We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years. We will harness the opportunities of flexible working and the digital economy to generate jobs for those whose disabilities make traditional work difficult. We will give employers the advice and support they need to hire and retain disabled people and those with health conditions. We will continue to ensure a sustainable welfare system, with help targeted at those who need it most. We will legislate to give unemployed disabled claimants or those with a health condition personalised and tailored employment support.
We believe that where you live, shop, go out, travel or park your car should not be determined by your disability. So we will review disabled people’s access and amend regulations if necessary to improve disabled access to licensed premises, parking and housing. We will work with providers of everyday essential services, like energy and telecoms, to reduce the extra costs that disability can incur.
Preventing domestic violence
Conservatives in government have already acted to help victims of domestic violence to seek refuge. We can and should go further. We need the police to investigate allegations thoroughly and treat victims with the care they deserve. We need to bring to the justice system greater guidance and clarity about the impact of domestic violence and abuse on families. And we need to understand and respond to the devastating and lifelong impact that domestic violence and abuse has on children, who carry the effects into adulthood.
A Conservative government will bring forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill in the next parliament to consolidate all civil and criminal prevention and protection orders and provide for a new aggravated offence if behaviour is directed at a child. There is currently no statutory definition of domestic violence and abuse. We will therefore also legislate to enshrine a definition of domestic violence and abuse in law, providing the legal underpinning for everything in our new act. This will enable us to work with victim support groups, experts and agencies to determine whether the current statutory definition is wide enough, to help survivors understand more easily if they have a basis for a complaint, and to provide a more reliable basis for police forces to investigate and the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute.
We will create a domestic violence and abuse commissioner in law, to stand up for victims and survivors, monitor the response to domestic violence and abuse and to hold the police and the criminal justice system to account. And we will take action to support victims of domestic violence to leave abusive partners, reviewing the funding for refuges and ensuring that victims who have lifetime tenancies and flee violence are able to secure a new lifetime tenancy automatically.
Finally, we will continue to combat homelessness and rough sleeping including through full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act. Our aim will be to halve rough sleeping over the course of the parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. To achieve this we will set up a new homelessness reduction taskforce that will focus on prevention and affordable housing, and we will pilot a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.
CUTTING THE COST OF LIVING
Breaking down long-standing social divisions in our society means tackling everyday economic pressures that hold back ordinary, working families. Government can help with the cost of living by keeping tax as low as possible. As we set out in chapter one we want to reduce taxes on British businesses and working families. But government can also help by making consumer markets work more fairly, and in doing so reducing the cost of the essentials that families have no choice but to buy. These costs make up a much larger share of working class household budgets than those of better-off households.
Fair markets for consumers
Tackling living costs must mean making consumer markets work fairly. Markets should work for consumers, as well as producers – with competition keeping prices low and encouraging new product development. Poor information, complex pricing and exploitative behaviour prevents markets operating efficiently for the benefit of all.
As Conservatives, we believe in markets as the best means to bring about prosperity and innovation, but we should act firmly and fast when a market works against the interests of consumers. Since 2010, we have capped the cost of credit for expensive payday lenders and will shortly ban letting agent fees. We will now go further to reform markets in the interests of consumers and reduce the cost of living.
A Conservative government will strengthen the hand of regulators. We will strengthen the powers of consumer enforcement bodies to order fines against companies breaking consumer law and deliver redress for wronged parties. We will explore how to give consumers a voice in the regulation of business. We will put the interest of vulnerable consumers first, including considering a duty on regulators to weigh up their needs. We will investigate how switching sites can better serve competition, including by providing shoppers with information about quality of service and complaints. We will strengthen the hand of online consumers. We will act to make terms and conditions clearer, and end the abusive use of subscription services, including by making it clearer when free trials come to an end.
We will also act in specific markets. A Conservative government will reform and modernise the home-buying process so it is more efficient and less costly. We will crack down on unfair practices in leasehold, such as escalating ground rents. We will also improve protections for those who rent, including by looking at how we increase security for good tenants and encouraging landlords to offer longer tenancies as standard. We will make billing for telecoms customers fairer and easier to understand, including making clear when a mobile customer has paid off the price of their handset. We will consider a ban on companies cold calling people encouraging them to make false personal injury claims. We will take steps to tackle rogue private parking operators. We will reduce insurance costs for ordinary motorists by cracking down on exaggerated and fraudulent whiplash claims. We will review rail ticketing, removing complexity and perverse pricing, and introduce a passenger ombudsman to stand up for the interests of rail users suffering a poor deal. We will work with train companies and their employees to agree minimum service levels during periods of industrial dispute – and if we cannot find a voluntary agreement, we will legislate to make this mandatory.
Fair energy markets
We will pay immediate attention to the retail energy market. Customers trust established brands and mistakenly assume their loyalty is rewarded. Energy suppliers have long operated a two-tier market, where those constantly checking for the best deal can do well but others are punished for inactivity with higher prices. Those hit worst are households with lower incomes, people with lower qualifications, people who rent their home and the elderly. A Conservative government will act in their interests.
First, we will ensure that smart meters will be offered to every household and business by the end of 2020, giving people control over their energy bills that they have not had before.
We will go further. We will introduce a safeguard tariff cap that will extend the price protection currently in place for some vulnerable customers to more customers on the poorest value tariffs. We will maintain the competitive element of the retail energy market by supporting initiatives to make the switching process easier and more reliable, but the safeguard tariff cap will protect customers who do not switch against abusive price increases.
Alongside giving individuals greater control over their energy bills and protecting customers from unfair bills, we will help them to save energy. An energy efficient home is a more affordable and healthy home. We will improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, especially for the least well off, by committing to upgrading all fuel poor homes to EPC Band C by 2030. We will also review requirements on new homes.
For some people, the cost of living can become too great. Problem debt can be hard to escape and can compound family breakdown, worklessness, stress and mental health issues. We will adopt a “Breathing Space” scheme, with the right safeguards to prevent abuse, so that someone in serious problem debt may apply for legal protection from further interest, charges and enforcement action for a period of up to six weeks. Where appropriate, they will be offered a statutory repayment plan to help them pay back their debts in a manageable way. This will give eligible debtors time to seek advice and assistance to apply for a sustainable solution to their debt.
Five Giant Challenges
1. A Strong Economy That Works For Everyone
2. A Strong And United Nation In A Changing World
3. The World’s Great Meritocracy
4. A Restored Contract Between The Generations
5. Prosperity And Security In A Digital Age
Conservative Manifesto 2017 Conclusion