Saturday, 29 September 2007


“Green-ness”, politically speaking, could be called “the new black”, if that weren’t an insult to anarchists. All across the political spectrum ideas originating from fringe Green organisations are recycled into the policies of mainstream political parties, and wind turbines sprout from all sorts of unlikely places. Other explicitly apolitical organisations ranging from Brent Cross Shopping Centre to the TUC hold events espousing some form of “green-ness”,

In education, totemic green concerns such as deforestation, species depletion and recycling are now included on curricula. Student environmental pressure group People and Planet, ranks HE institutions according to their “environmental credentials” (Tandy, London Student 17/9/2007). However some ‘hard-core’ Greens insist, such activities are essentially a ‘greenwash’ because they take place in a global context of economics geared to continually increasing growth based on increasing personal material consumption, in turn ,most damagingly based on CO2 emitting technologies. Such criticisms do not just emanate from the stereotypical ‘tree-hugging fundis’ and can even be heard from advocates of a new-style leader-led Green Party of England and Wales (Lucas 29/8/2007).

This is because such critics believe that a truly ‘Green’ society, i.e. one that would decisively address the socio-economic causes of climate change, would have to institute some form of radical change to most aspects of contemporary societies . How is such radicalism, reflected, if it is at all, in the policies of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) and specifically those policies relating to Post-16 education?

GPEW policies mainly reside in two locations. Firstly in a series of voluminous documents known as the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (Mfss), secondly, broad general statements made in Mfss may be rendered relevant to contemporary circumstances by policy statements (aka ‘Policy Pointers’) on specific issues; for example whilst Mfss makes generalised statements about educational selection, a policy statements firms this up into opposition to Academy Schools (GPEW Education Policy Pointers). This is a relatively clear example, and as the process of constructing GPEW, (via long and complex conferences, motions, debates and amendments), is cumbersome and almost, at times, arcane, the actual totality of GPEW policy is difficult to grasp and sometimes, in places, outdated. There is awareness of this and the Mfss education section was revised in Spring 2007.

Quantitatively at least, the Mfss is still overwhelmingly concerned with school education. Some of the initial statements of principle apply to all education, indeed the subtitle of the education Policy Pointers’ is ‘Lifelong Learning’ but on point after point from diet to democracy to individual learning plans children are the main subject of GPEW policy. However towards the end of the document, two types of post-16 education institution are proposed; District Community Colleges and regionally-based Universities.

It is initially specified that:”All institutions will be democratically directed by the people in that learning community” (Mfss). A role in this system is envisaged for “existing national vocational & professional bodies” in certifying some area of post-16 education, but, it is stated that a Green government will be able to prevent elitism in these bodies.

It seems implicit that the College/University distinction in Mfss is similar to the current, (and currently sometimes eroding), Further/Higher Education split in the UK, in that the role of the Colleges is seen as “encouraging participation by all in the building of a sustainable local community”, whereas the Universities should spread “the availability of university-level education and research” and “will award first or higher degrees (or other qualifications)…”.( Mfss). It is fair to add that throughout, a flexibility for post-16 learners is emphasised so that they can, if they wish, dip in and out of parts of the Green F/HE system rather that working in a prescribed way through a linear hierarchy of qualifications.

A scheme for post-16 educational governance is sketched out, Regional Councils and Local education Authorities will provide funding to institutions “supported by a central government department. Inside Universities a Student-Staff Council (SSC) of elected course reps will be the “main decision-making body”. It seems to be assumed that, perhaps because there will be widespread consensual support for the Green utopia in which this system will operate, there will minimal conflict between communities, various levels of government, students and teachers/lecturers. Also the possibility that any of these groups might express their interests and political agendas through autonomous organisations is nowhere mentioned.

However Mfss does seem to bear the stamp of some educational trade union influences. Most notably sections on “University and College Students” and separately, “Students” both give detailed consideration to student finances and living conditions and the restoration of HE grants is called for with the stipulation that they will be integrated into a citizens’ income scheme. There is also a five point section on “Staff” that re-iterates some fairly basic F/HE teachers’ Union demands , (e.g. non-discriminatory recruitment and promotion procedures, a dramatic reduction in fixed-term contracts).

Doubtless the editors, authors and vettors of Mfss and the Policy Pointers can defend their work by stating that that it cannot itemise every minute detail of what a Green education policy and that to be properly understood such a policy has to be seen with all the other forty policies in Mfss (see below).Should this be done some of the apparent contradictions in regard to education might disappear, but probably won’t since they reflect deeper tensions within GPEW policy and Green ideologies generally.

In particular the party has a commitment to support small businesses. Perhaps this stems in part from the work of Schumacher who saw small enterprise and localism as a potential counterbalance to the gigantism and uniformity enforced by capitalist and state corporations. The education section of Mfss palces itself in this context; “Green Party policies will encourage the development of small, individually or co-operatively owned enterprises.” (MFSS) Later it is stated that;” large scale corporate funding” will not be needed. Nonetheless one of the tasks of University Ethics committees will be to prevent “adverse pressure” from “corporate finance for research”.

As elsewhere, the harmonious co-existence of business aims and other Green policies seems assumed, yet the autumn 2007 GPEW conference could not decide if it wanted a national minimum wage of £7.20 per hr, partly because it was argued that small businesses might find this too costly. If this is actually the case, are such enterprises likely to be a willing tax base for paying for a government funded education systems (and all the other Green goodies) outlined in the Mfss? Could it be that Greens intend to curb ‘nasty’ big, (as opposed to ’nice’ small business) by nationalising it? Or do they expect corporate capitalism to shut up shop of its own accord and fragment into a myriad of sole traders thus initiating a new Green economic universe with a big bang?

These are questions beyond the scope of any education policy, although highly relevant, and barring the dawn of a brave new Green world tomorrow, perhaps one of GPEW’s next tasks should be to formulate some interim demands which could be supported by the unionists, practitioners and students of post-16 education to help cope with the imperfect world that we all still live in.

FOOTNOTE: Policies in Mfss
Agriculture (Updated Autumn 2005)Animals Rights (Updated Spring 2007)Arts Climate Change (Updated Spring 2007)Countryside (Updated Spring 2007)Crime PreventionDisabilityDrugs (Updated Autumn 2006)Economy (Updated Spring 2007)Education (Updated Spring 2007)Energy (Updated Spring 2007)EuropeFisheries Food Forestry Green CouncilsHealth (Updated Autumn 2006)Housing (Updated Spring 2007)IndustryInternational (Updated Spring 2007)Land Local Planning & Built Environment (Updated Autumn 2006)Marine IndustryMigrationNationalityNatural Resources and Waste Management (Updated Autumn 2006)Northern IrelandPeace and Defence Philosophical BasisPollutionPopulationPrinciples of GovernmentPublic AdministrationRefugeesResponsibilities and RightsScience and Technology (Updated Spring 2007)Social WelfareTourism Transport (Updated Autumn 2006)Workers Rights and Employment


Green Party of England and Wales, Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (Education Section)

GPEW Education Policy Pointers,

Lucas, C.'Lucas questions grey parties' commitment to tackling climate change :We can't cut emissions by tinkering around the edges' 29th Aug 2007

People and Planet

Schumacher.E.F., “Small Is Beautiful”, Hartley & Marks Publishers, December 1999

Tandy,J. “Green Hall of Shame: Colleges fail to make the grade on the environment”, London Student 17/9/2007