EDUCATION has been thrust to the fore of the General Election debate in Westmorland and Lonsdale this week.

Liberal Democrat candidate Tim Farron spelled out his policy in a video posted on the Twitter account of the Cumbria branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

In it, Mr Farron said funding was clearly the main issue and had forced many South Lakeland schools into staff cuts, and he pledged to restore all cuts in what he insisted was a fully costed strategy.

Mr Farron’s second objective concerns pupils with special educational needs.

He said funding for those pupils should be provided centrally rather than the current system where funding comes from the school's own budget, thereby penalising schools offering more special needs places.

His third point was focused on education watchdog Ofsted, and he said change was needed as school leaders faced twin pressures of resources and inspections.

“We would replace Ofsted completely with an inspectorate that would focus on mentoring and improvement rather than inquisitorial inspection and setting traps,” he said.

Conservative candidate Cllr James Airey stressed that he was a passionate supporter of rural schools and pointed out that substantial Government funding has already been promised in an announcement made some weeks ago.

Cllr Airey explained that when the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson came to Cumbria recently, he announced that funding would be allocated to the tune of £4,000 per primary school pupil and £5,000 per secondary school pupil.

He added that he had been delighted when a £400 million extra funding package for education had recently been announced.

However, Cllr Airey warned that while this was to be welcomed, the pressure needed to be continued to ensure adequate funding as secured

“I have campaigned for a long time to get funding for rural schools,” he said.

“It's clear the funding announcements were great news but we need to keep the pressure on.”

Phillip Black, who is fighting the seat for Labour, said in his view his party’s manifesto most closely matched the NAHT’s stated key policies.

“Our education policy is built upon the firm principle that education should be freely available to everyone, from cradle to grave,” he said.

“To that end we will be establishing a National Education Service, bringing together a vision of a lifetime of education for people from their early years, through schooling and on into further and higher education.”

Mr Black said more than £3.2 million of funding cuts had hit schools in the constituency.

“This system is hugely failing our young,” he said.

He also echoed Mr Farron’s pledge to abolish Ofsted would be replaced.

Brexit Party candidate Steven Bolton said their ‘Contract with the People’ detailed a firm commitment to investment in education.

“Britain’s future in the world depends on improving our education for young people and giving employers a positive role in training and apprenticeships,” he said.

Mr Bolton said the Brexit Party pledged to expand parental choice and abolish student loan interest.

The party has also pledged to abolish the target to push 50 per cent of young people into higher education.

In addition, Mr Bolton said the Brexit Party wanted to scrap what he described as the “cumbersome “ Apprentice Levy which he claimed had caused apprenticeships to collapse.