From education to employment

Labour challenges Education Secretary to match the Party’s recovery guarantee in new pledge to young people

Kate Green MP 750x570

In her speech to the #Lab21 Labour Party Conference @KateGreenSU challenges new Education Secretary @NadhimZahawi to deliver a recovery guarantee to deliver new opportunities for every child ensuring they are not held back by the pandemic.  

Responding to Nadhim Zahawi’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference (4th Oct), Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“The Education Secretary cannot claim to champion children’s education whilst closing doors and shutting off opportunities.

“Labour has set out a clear plan to deliver a world class education for every child. From extending the school day for new activities, to recruiting new teachers to fill skills gaps and vacancies and delivering careers advice and work experience, Labour’s plan would set all young people up for life. It’s time the Conservatives match this ambition for our children’s futures.”

In her speech to the Labour Party Conference, Kate Green MP, Shadow Education Secretary will set out how the Party’s ambitious recovery plan – extending the school day for new activities including art, sport, cooking, coding, providing small group tutoring and mental health support – could deliver eight months of additional academic progress for children, helping them bounce back from time out of school. 

Green will challenge the government to match this ambition for children’s futures by delivering a recovery guarantee that provides every child with new opportunities to develop the skills, knowledge and social development missed during the average of 115 days children have had out of school. 

The Conservatives’ current plans fail to come close to meeting this guarantee. Already half a million pupils have left secondary school without any support to recover lost learning, as the government failed to deliver tutoring to even the 3% pupils targeted during the last school year. 

This year fewer than one in 16 children are set to get tutoring support from the government’s provider while parents’ calls for wellbeing to be the post-pandemic priority have been ignored by government. 

In her speech to Labour Party Conference, Kate Green MP is expected to say: 

“Conference, our children’s futures, life chances and aspirations must not be limited by the Conservatives treating them as an afterthought. 

“They must not be limited by a recovery plan that the Government’s own catch-up expert described as “feeble”.    

 “And they must not be limited by a weak Prime Minister who took months to sack a failing Secretary of State.  

“That is why today, Conference, I am challenging the new Education Secretary to deliver a recovery guarantee.  

“To ensure that every single child who has been let down, ignored and undervalued by this government not only recovers from the pandemic, but thrives on new opportunities to learn, play and develop – just as Labour’s plan would enable them to do.” 

Sector Response

Rachael Saunders, Education & Policy Director at Speakers for Schools: 

“The Labour Party is right to focus on work experience as part of its proposals for young people but two weeks is nowhere near enough to give the leg up they require and deserve post-pandemic. Compulsory work experience was axed in 2012. Although it is included in the Gatsby benchmarks endorsed in the 2017 Careers Strategy, the expectation that all young people should access work experience feels more like an aspiration than an expectation – only 55% of schools are currently meeting this objective. We must work to reduce this enormous shortfall.

“Our recent research with YouGov revealed that a lack of access to work experience represents the single biggest barrier for young people looking to secure a job. The MPs and business leaders we surveyed also cited how highly valuable work experience is yet it is currently absent from the Government’s catch up plans. The job market is fiercer than ever before so our support of young people must stretch beyond education.

“We would argue a young person needs multiple work experience placements during their time at school, carefully planned with charities and career agencies to ensure they align with young peoples’ interests and studies, helping to develop essential skills, provide insights into different sectors and give the opportunity to engage with senior business leaders as well as junior role models. We’d encourage the Government to seriously consider these proposals as a first step to giving young people the support they truly deserve after a tumultuous eighteen months, while future proofing our workforce and converting the levelling up rhetoric into meaningful action.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“Young people only get one shot at education so schools and colleges need urgent investment for recovery activities or else many students will get left behind or miss out on making progress. 

“Labour are right to focus on small group work for the students who need it because much more of this will be needed than in a normal year and this requires funds for proper staffing.  

“This is the right time to be talking about boosting high-quality after-school provision including homework clubs and access to music and sport. 

“Sir Kevan Collins warned the government of the risks of not investing in recovery education adequately. If the Government refuses to invest in recovery then the gap between children from low-income families and middle class families is going to widen hugely. Without investment, a widening gap and rising school exclusions is therefore predictable and is a path we as a society must not take.” 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the largest union for school leaders, NAHT, said:

“I was pleased that the shadow Secretary of State took the time to recognise school leaders and their teams for their efforts over the past months. It was right some were there to hear it. 

“The shadow Secretary of State has recognised some of the most pressing issues facing schools and young people today, and we will continue our dialogue with Labour about their vision for education. 

“We are a politically independent union, which means that we are visiting all the major party conferences to argue for education reform. I want to see politicians from all parties talking with the highest level of ambition for education in this country. That should be the foundation of a meaningful debate about the financial commitment necessary to have a truly world class education system. Schools and colleges were under immense financial strain even before the pandemic.

“Merely talking about recovery is far too narrow. ‘Recovery’ implies a return to what we had before, which is simply not good enough. Now we need to build a system that is stronger and fairer than the one we know.

“We have a generation of ambitious young people, full of hope and demanding of change. Those who want to govern our country must be bold enough to propose something truly ambitious and world-beating.”

NAHT has put forward an education blueprint for the future, which urges policy makers to focus on seven key areas:

  1. Prioritising Early Years funding and support
  2. Improving support for mental health and wellbeing
  3. Investing in the teaching profession
  4. Providing targeted academic support for pupils who need it
  5. Expanding extra-curricular provision
  6. Investing in technology
  7. Removing unnecessary accountability and bureaucracy.

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