Education is what empowers us all to realise our full potential.
When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. When we invest in people to develop their skills and capabilities, we all benefit from a stronger economy and society.
At a time when working lives and the skills our economy needs are changing rapidly, governments have the responsibility to make lifelong learning a reality by giving everyone the opportunity to access education throughout their lives.
To meet this responsibility, Labour will create a unified National Education Service (NES) for England to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use. The NES will be built on the principle that ‘Every Child – and Adult Matters’ and will incorporate all forms of education, from early years through to adult education.
When the 1945 Labour government established the NHS, it created one of the central institutions of fairness of the 20th century. The NES will do the same for the 21st, giving people confidence and hope by making education a right, not a privilege, and building bridges where the Conservatives build barriers.
Under the Conservatives, the free hours entitlement is chronically under-funded, with provision patchy and hard to navigate. Many providers now simply refuse to participate in the scheme. The result is that many parents aren’t even getting the hours they’re entitled to.
- Overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct government subsidy.
- Maintain current commitments on free hours and make significant capital investment during our first two years of government, to ensure that the places exist to meet demand.
- Phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure that everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern.
- Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities. This will benefit staff, who are among our worst-paid workers, and improve child development.
- Extend the 30 free hours to all two- year-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for one- year-olds and extending maternity pay to 12 months.
Sure Start, and the support it gives to vulnerable and hard-to-reach parents, was one of the great achievements of the previous Labour government, but under the Conservatives 1,200 Sure Start centres have been lost. Labour will halt the closures and increase the amount of money available for Sure Start.
We will tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis by ending the public-sector pay cap, giving teachers more direct involvement in the curriculum, and tackling rising workloads by reducing monitoring and bureaucracy.
We will also consult on introducing teacher sabbaticals and placements with industry to encourage interaction between education and industry and introduce broad experiences into the classroom.
We will reintroduce the Schools Support Staff Negotiating Body and national pay settlements for teachers.
We will put £150 million back into supporting our children in schools by scrapping the Conservatives’ nonsensical plans for schools to pay the apprenticeship levy.
We will extend schools-based counselling to all schools to improve children’s mental health, at a cost of £90 million per year.
And we will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.
At a time when technology is changing demand for different kinds of skills, and evolving patterns of work mean that people are more likely to pursue several careers during their working lives, it is crucial that our education system enables people to upskill and retrain over their lifetimes. As part of our dynamic industrial strategy, lifelong training will deliver productivity and growth to the whole economy while transforming the lives of individuals and communities.
To ensure that we deliver for every part of the UK, we will devolve responsibility for skills, wherever there is an appetite, to city regions or devolved administrations.
Further and Adult Education
Despite claiming to be committed to delivering high-quality training, the Conservatives have ruthlessly cut funding for FE colleges – our main provider of adult and vocational education – and reduced entitlements for adult learners. This has led to diminishing numbers of courses and students, and plunged the sector into crisis.
Labour would introduce free, lifelong education in Further Education (FE) colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life.
Our skills and training sector has been held back by repeated reorganisation, which deprives providers, learners and employers of the consistency they need to assess quality. Labour would abandon Conservative plans to once again reinvent the wheel by building new technical colleges, redirecting the money to increase teacher numbers in the FE sector.
We share the broad aims of the Sainsbury Review but would ensure vocational routes incorporate the service sector as well as traditional manufacturing, working in tandem with our broad industrial strategy to deliver for the whole economy.
We will improve careers advice and open up a range of routes through, and back into, education, striking a balance between classroom and on-the-job training, to ensure students gain both technical and soft skills
To implement the Sainsbury recommendations, we would correct historic neglect of the FE sector by giving the sector the investment – in teachers and facilities – it deserves to become a world-leading provider of adult and vocational education.
More specifically, we would:
- Bring funding for 16 to18-year-olds in line with Key Stage 4 baselines, while ensuring that the budget is distributed fairly between colleges and school sixth forms
- Restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 18-year-olds from lower and middle income backgrounds
- Replace Advanced Learner Loans and upfront course fees with direct funding, making FE courses free at the point of use, including English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.
- Drive up quality and consistency in the FE sector by:
- Encouraging co-operation and leadership across colleges and sixth forms, improving curriculum breadth and quality
- Setting a target, backed up by funding, for all FE teaching staff to have a teaching qualification within five years.
- In recognition of the role played by private-sector providers, we would extend support for training to teachers in the private sector
- Increase capital investment to equip colleges to deliver T-levels and an official pre-apprenticeship trainee programme.
Employer-led training is the most effective way of meeting our growing skills gap. Labour supports the apprenticeship levy, but will take steps to ensure that every apprenticeship is of a high quality.
- Maintain the apprenticeship levy while taking measures to ensure high quality by requiring the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to report on an annual basis to the Secretary of State on quality outcomes of completed apprenticeships to ensure they deliver skilled workers for employers and real jobs for apprentices at the end of their training. And we will work with the devolved administrations to improve the operation of the levy
- Set a target to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022
- Give employers more flexibility in how the levy is deployed, including allowing the levy to be used for pre-apprenticeship programmes
- Guarantee trade union representation in the governance structures of the Institute of Apprenticeships
- Protect the £440 million funding for apprenticeships for small-and medium-sized employers who don’t pay the levy
- Set targets to increase apprenticeships for people with disabilities, care leavers and veterans, and ensure broad representation of women, BAME, LGBT and people with disabilities in all kinds of apprenticeships
- Consult on introducing incentives for large employers to over-train numbers of apprentices to fill skills gaps in the supply chain and the wider sector
- Reverse cuts to Unionlearn
- Set up a commission on Lifelong Learning tasked with integrating further and higher education.
Labour believes education should be free, and we will restore this principle. No one should be put off educating themselves for lack of money or through fear of debt.
There is a real fear that students are being priced out of university education. Last year saw the steepest fall in university applications for 30 years.
Since the Conservatives came to power, university tuition fees have been trebled to over £9,000 a year, and maintenance grants have been abolished and replaced with loans.
The average student now graduates from university, and starts their working life, with debts of £44,000.
Labour will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and we will abolish university tuition fees.
University tuition is free in many northern European countries, and under a Labour government it will be free here too.
Click here for the manifesto in full.