The Education Secretary sets out her vision to support all young people to access a good school and make the most of their talents.
Good morning everyone. It’s really a pleasure to be here today (April 13) and I want to thank St Mary’s University for welcoming us here today. It seemed like a great place to come, because not only is it a place that is training the teachers of the future, but researchers here have been doing important analysis of the educational outcomes of young people in our schools, especially those that come from families struggling to make ends meet. And that’s particularly one of the things I want to talk about today ….
Part of the plan for Britain is a fairer society - a society based on merit. And delivering a fairer society surely must start with education and our schools - making sure that our children and young people can do their very best and reach their potential, wherever they’re growing up. That’s the means by which we build a better country. It’s how we build a better Britain. In short, we are the means. Our country’s people. Each and every one of us.
Some of the most vivid memories I have in life are about opportunities. Me in a telephone box in Devon. It looks pretty normal. But it matters to me, that telephone box, because it’s the telephone box I rang from to get my A level results. I screamed with delight when I heard that I’d got the results I needed. We went to the pub to celebrate. I knew it would open up the world to me. I believe we can build that system here.
Opportunity is about how we translate hope into something real - something concrete. So for me opportunity is the most precious commodity in this world. Our strong economy is vital, because it’s the opportunity engine of our country. But we now truly need to make it a country where everyone has an equal shot at taking advantage of those opportunities being created. This is a government that wants more opportunity for more people - and more equality of opportunity. And that means unlocking our children’s potential.
Now, I think back to those countries that I spent so much time visiting over recent years, the people I met and the talents I saw unlocked by education. And I think - no single country had it right actually. There isn’t a country out there that has found the formula to unlock every talent of every person. But if a country could do that - if it really could build an education system to realise the potential of every one of its people, if it had an economy and businesses that could fully harness that potential - then what a country it would be. It would be unbeatable. That’s what this government wants for our country - and in doing so it will be a country that reflects the values of British people. And, I hope, a beacon to the rest of the world.
I believe we can build that education system that unlocks the talents of all our people here in Britain. We’ve got the right ingredients: expert teachers, determined to unlock every young person’s potential. I have spent much time with them in recent months. A society that believes in fairness and businesses that now more than ever understand how education and skills drive growth. We can unleash the wealth of latent talent that we have on this island - and become a powerful, modern, confident economy. A country that works for everyone.
Our reforms have taken steps to improve quality and diversity
Our country has been on a long journey on education - not just on improving the quality of our schools, but on giving parents real choice where before there was none. When I was growing up there was no real choice at all. You got what you were given. I went to my local comprehensive school because everyone did. And in this system some people got a good education. I was lucky - I had great teachers who taught me, encouraged me and inspired me. That got me to that red phone box in Devon years later. People never forget great teachers, because the impact they have on our lives goes beyond that of other people that we will go on to meet. But some people - and some places - have been left behind. The schools they went to and are going to weren’t good enough. We can never accept the randomness of a postcode lottery in education if we are to succeed as a country.
That’s why we will keep pursuing our ambitious reforms. On what children are taught, on making sure they are taught well, and on how schools provide them with the knowledge and skills they and our businesses need for success in modern Britain. That’s why we’re pursuing a new gold standard in curriculum and assessment, together with an expectation that the vast majority of young people will study the EBacc subjects - this is an academic core of subjects - that keep their options open for young people. And we are steadily strengthening the teaching profession with high-quality qualifications and standards, an increased focus on CPD of teachers supported by a new professional body - the College of Teaching - to bring the profession together ….
We need an education system that works for everyone, including ordinary working families
But we know that there is more to do - and alongside creating a real diversity of schools, we have rightly focused on the most disadvantaged children and young people. I believe all have a talent - the potential to succeed and have a great career. But look at the gap in attainment.
Less well-off children enter school behind their wealthier peers already.
And once at school they fall further behind - because they’re less likely to go to a good school.
They’re less likely to then go to university - and even if they get there, they go on to earn lower incomes than their advantaged peers, even if they’re in the same top jobs.
"Yet they are more likely to do further education - which we believe has been neglected and underfunded for decades."
So we should never accept an education system that is so tilted against the disadvantaged. So we remain absolutely committed to supporting these children and young people, not least with transformational long-term policies like the pupil premium, and opportunity areas to increase social mobility.
But we believe it’s not just disadvantaged children and young people that our education system can deliver much more for. This government will not lose sight of other children, from ordinary working families. This government believes we have not done enough to support them - partly because they do not qualify under our existing measures of disadvantage. The danger is that they’ve ended up off the radar. But we are determined to also have them at the heart of our thinking. And at the heart of our plan for Britain.
The Prime Minister has been clear - if we are to build a country that works for everyone, we need to do more for young people from these families. Families on modest incomes, who are being let down by a shortage of good schools. Statistically, they are families that tend to live outside the inner cities - of course, it has been inner cities that have been the focus of many of our education initiatives - and it has been the inner cities that have commonly been the focus of education initiatives. Instead, they live in our suburbs and our coastal areas, mostly outside Greater London, in many towns in the North of England. But if these young people can do better, then our whole country will do better.
If these children received the same grades as their wealthier peers at the end of secondary school, then we’d have thousands more pupils better equipped to do well in later life. At primary school, we’d have thousands more reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths - gaining the knowledge and skills that privileged groups take for granted.
If the schools these children attended were as good as their wealthier peers, we’d have nearly 100,000 more outstanding school places for them.
And so, as well as our disadvantaged young people - those furthest away from the level playing field of opportunity - we need to help these children achieve their full potential too.
More schools that work for everyone
Fundamentally, these children need more good schools. That will be at the heart of my forthcoming white paper - ‘schools that work for everyone’ - for the first time we want to properly knit together the different parts of our education system, so its constituent parts can work together to raise attainment as a whole, collectively. We believe that universities, independent schools and faith schools can have a real role in creating better options for parents. And I believe that selection - in new 21st-century state grammar schools - will add to the options available to young people, to truly help make the most of their talents ….
We should never accept that education is a zero-sum game. Great heads, great teachers and great schools can and are raising performance for the whole community - not just their own schools - by sharing expertise and providing support, so young people in all schools can benefit from a stronger, closer-knit education system. And young people from all schools can have a good education, with an academic core, to help unlock their talents.
There is then space for everyone to succeed in this system. And this is not our whole education approach by any means. We are reforming education post-16 by lifting the cap on university places. And with the help of top employers we are reforming our technical education - injecting investment, standards and quality - so that young people who are technically gifted have a world-class route to a great career. That’s why the CBI called our March budget “a breakthrough budget for skills”.
In Britain there will always be room for talent. Unlocking talent is how we build all of our futures. And we will build an education system that unlocks that talent in every one of our young people.
A country that works for everyone
This is a bold plan for transforming education in Britain. Everyone needs to play their part. Not just our education sector - our teachers, school leaders, lecturers. Our schools and universities. But also our employers, top businesses. This government.
This is not an easy mission. But the potential gains are huge - for young people and for Britain. And if we unlocked the talent of every young person, it would have a huge impact on productivity and the economy.
That’s why education is such a crucial part of our industrial strategy.
It’s why education is at the heart of our plan for Britain.
A true meritocracy. Opportunity as the glue that brings the country together. A strong, modern economy facing out to the world. A global Britain that lives up to its values.
Because, in spite of their circumstances, everyone has a talent. And when we recognise the potential of every person, we recognise the potential of our country. And when we can finally capitalise on every talent, Britain really will be a country that works for everyone.
Education Secretary Justine Greening speaking at St Mary’s University April 13