Education must not be used as a “political football” in the General Election campaign, school leaders have warned.
Headteachers are urging politicians against “sweeping generalisations and negative point-scoring” and the “corrosive practice” of pitching one type of school against another.
Education is likely to become one of the central issues of the campaign, with the major political parties expected to make pledges on schools and universities.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is calling on politicians of all colours to focus on issues such as funding, reforms to the exams system, and teacher recruitment and retention.
In its General Election manifesto, the union says: “Our education system in the UK is highly regarded by other countries. We must stop talking ourselves down. Education has been used as a political football for far too long, with one side denigrating the system in an attempt to disparage the record of the other side.
“Robust debate is a sign of a healthy and functioning democracy, but we must beware that it does not become excessively negative.
“We call upon politicians of all persuasions to mind their language in the General Election campaign and, in particular, not to indulge in the corrosive practice of extolling one type of school over another type of school.”
ASCL, which represents school leaders, sets out a 10-point plan, which includes a call for more investment in education.
The Government has announced plans to invest billions of pounds in England’s schools over the next three years.
ASCL says that, while this is welcome, it does not go far enough.
Labour has previously said it wants to increase per-pupil funding in real terms and introduce a National Education Service.
The union also wants to see more effort put into recruiting and retaining teachers, a fairer GCSE system that support pupils who do not get at least a grade 4 (equivalent to an old C grade) in their English and maths GCSEs, reform of SATs tests for 11-year-olds, and a review of the curriculum.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “We expect there to be a robust discussion about education and it is absolutely right that there should be.
“But we urge politicians against sweeping generalisations, negative point-scoring and pitching one type of school against another type of school.”
He added: “The next government must recognise that recent announcements over more funding for schools and colleges do not go far enough and the job is not done.
“It must also do more to tackle severe teacher shortages which will become worse as the number of secondary school pupils increases.
“And it must ease the crushing weight of the accountability system on schools and colleges, and of the exam system on pupils.”