We alone among the parties acknowledge that observed differences in academic ability are attributable to differences in heredity to a greater extent than to differences in nurture. However, we see these as differences in kind of ability as much as differences in level of ability. It is therefore important that the type of schooling received depends on the abilities of the children concerned.
We are in favour of selection but we do not favour the old style of selection that condemned many children, often unfairly, to an inferior form of secondary education. There was lack of uniformity in the method of selection and even in the percentages of pupils allowed to pass. Secondary moderns were often starved of resources.
We should see future selection as being on the basis of vertical divisions between types of ability rather than horizontal divisions between levels of ability. However, all selection must be uniform, flexible and subject to regular reviews. Schools (or streams within the same school) for the less academic should not be allowed to provide an inferior quality of education. Schools for all pupils must receive equivalent funding.
Primary education must ensure that all capable children, without exception, are functionally literate, numerate and capable of using information technology. Early diagnosis of impediments to learning is essential to the provision of a fair educational system.
There are many other qualities, apart from academic ability that need to be recognised and nurtured in children: a spirit of inquiry; honesty; reliability; sporting ability and teamwork. These qualities are just as important.
Religious education in ordinary state schools would be taught from a non-denominational Christian perspective. However, it would not be unduly prescriptive. Parents would continue to have a right to withdraw their children from such classes.
Discipline must be restored to our schools. Those whose disruptive behaviour does not respond to the corrective policies of the school must be removed and taught in separate institutions.
In our view, university education has expanded beyond need and beyond the ability of the economy to absorb graduates in positions commensurate with their expectations, degrees and educational outlay. This expansion led inexorably to the end of maintenance grants and the charging of students with tuition fees. The result of all of this is that nearly all graduates, apart from those from very rich families, leave university with enormous debts. Furthermore, they often have to accept jobs that would have been available to them as school leavers. We should explain to those who wish to join the professions, including the law and accountancy, that there are alternative routes, without the need to go to university.
We believe that those with the finest intellects, whose intelligence is matched by conscientiousness and a need for their field of study, should be able to earn the right to have their tuition fees to be paid and even to receive a maintenance grant.
The United Kingdom needs to have the benefits of a new industrial revolution. This would require an education system that pushes education in science and technology to the head of its priorities.
-Reproduced from our Policy leaflet