Parliamentary candidates were grilled on their policies and pledges for education at a hustings in Salterbeck – however there was bitter disappointment at the absence of three candidates.

Sue Hayman for Labour, Neil Hughes for the Lib Dems, Jill Perry for the Green Party, and Independent Roy Ivinson answered questions by the audience at the event at The Oval Centre.

However Mark Jenkinson for the Conservative Party, Brexit Party’s David Walker and Independent Nicky Cockburn had been invited but were not present.

Moderator Graham Frost, branch secretary of the NAHT, organisers of the event, said reasons had not been given for the absence of the three candidates.

Questions were then taken from the floor and parliamentary hopefuls were quizzed on everything from their policy on early years provision, support for children with special educational needs, funding cuts to schools, university fees and maintenance grants, austerity, issues around academies and free schools, further education and staff retention.

Answers from candidates focused on education funding pledges, the importance of mental health support in schools, how they would reform inspections and exams and the importance of inclusivity in schools.

A lot of the questions came from people working in education and many of them expressed their disappointment at the absence of Mr Jenkinson, as they wanted to challenge him on what the Conservative Party had done for education since it has been in power from 2010.

And Mr Hughes was also grilled on the role his party played during the coalition government in increasing university fees.

He said the pledge of scrapping tuition fees should never had been made by his party because financial experts had said it was not workable, however it was an election “soundbite.”

“What’s easily forgotten is that half of the Lib Dems voted against the policy,” said Mr Hughes.

Mrs Hayman was challenged on the Labour manifesto’s pledge of introducing a common rulebook to which all schools would be subject to.

A father asked: “If there’s something in there that’s not appropriate for my child, what should I do about it?”

Mrs Hayman said the context of that part of the manifesto was around the party’s attempt to reduce fragmentation so that all schools would have to meet certain criteria and standards.

“Would there be an opportunity to raise concerns? That’s a really good question. I don’t know if that has been built into it, we haven’t written the rulebook, this is a pledge to do so. But it’s a really important question and I’ll take it back to the shadow education secretary.”

Mr Ivinson answered many of the questions by saying educationalists were the ones who would need to come up with an adequate system to make public education work and how to fund it.

However he was challenged to explain what other sources of funding he would find for education.

The member of the public, who said she worked with children with special educational needs, said: “Why shouldn’t it be paid through taxes, I pay my taxes and I don’t mind paying my taxes to support you.”

But Mr Ivinson said he did not have an answer and added he had right-wing views in terms of education and believed funding should come from elsewhere other than the government.

“It’s educationalists, not chicken farmers like me who have to work out a system,” added Mr Ivinson.

Mrs Perry said that Green Party policy was that formal education would start at six years of age.

However a member of the public said he had seen young children at that age with a gap in education so wide it would be impossible for them to catch-up.

Mrs Perry, a former teacher, said those children who did find there was a gap between them and their peers had probably never even learnt to play.

She said her party wanted to see children learn through play.

"I used to be a German teacher and that was the norm in in Germany and in Sweden, I believe."

Mr Frost outlined the priority of NAHT, the trade union for school leaders.

Those are: a fully and fairly funded education system; great teachers and leaders in every class and every school; proportionate, reliable and fair inspection; a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils; timely and effective support from the services that children and families rely on.

Mr Frost ended the event by asking voters to bear the NAHT pledges in mind and to hold their future MP accountable for education, no matter what party they represented.