Education: A System Fit for All
This week sees the beginning of a new academic year for our young people and teachers. Some are beginning in school or college for the first time, others are returning after a summer break.
I still remember that nervous anticipation at the beginning of the school year when I was at Conyers, thinking of what was to come and the excitement of seeing friends again or making new ones. In Stockton South we also have several Head Teachers starting in new posts and I want to take the opportunity to wish them all luck for the year ahead and every success.
I also thought that this was an apt time to write a little about what Labour will do to transform education and skills after the next election. Our Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has been working hard to put our policies in place and I was delighted when he came to Durham University in Stockton to discuss policy. I believe that Labour offers a great vision of what education should look like in the 21st century. The Tories are a block to this and in my view have already done a lot of damage
The Tory threat is clear; Michael Gove may have gone, but his destructive policies remain. I know from the doorstep the relief of many teachers when Michael Gove was demoted, but his successor Nicky Morgan has already made clear that she very much wants to continue in the direction he set out. She said on Wednesday that she wanted to listen to teachers because they are the experts, yet she insists on staying the course with the very policies which have alienated teachers up and down the country. An NUT poll in January 2013 showed that 69% of teachers felt morale had declined since May 2010, with 55% saying their morale is either low or very low. The failed Free Schools policy will continue. Funding for Primary school places will continue to be diverted. Finally unqualified people with untested ability will continue to be allowed to teach our children. This will all lead to a continued lack of morale, a potential for low standards of teaching and learning and teachers leaving the profession in droves; all to the detriment of our children and young people.
The choice with Labour is clear. We will ensure that our children are only taught by qualified teachers. Those unqualified will be given the training and support to attain qualified teacher status. Investment in high quality professional development and revalidation of skills on a rolling basis will mean there will be a world class teacher in every classroom in Stockton South.
Labour will put money back into funding extra school places by ending the free schools programme. In Ingleby Barwick we have a Free School opening this week on Teesside Industrial Estate with plans for a purpose-built school for next year. That won’t be under threat from Labour policy. We won’t stop from going ahead any that have been established or are in the pipeline. I have said before that I don’t dispute the need for more school places in Ingleby and I think it is unsustainable and unfair to bus hundreds of young people out every day. I would have preferred to see All Saints School extended or a new Community School built rather than a Free School but now that it has opened I do of course wish staff and students at Ingleby Manor every success in their first year.
Finally, not everyone chooses to go to university; Labour will ensure that vocational education is not a second class option. We have two good colleges in Stockton South and I look forward to seeing them being able to take advantage of delivering Labour’s Technical Baccalaureate.
Voters in Stockton South have a choice when it comes to the election in terms of education and skills. A Tory future of growing and unsustainable class sizes, unqualified teachers in the classroom and great teachers leaving the profession, or a Labour future where money is targeted to ensure that once again our children are taught in smaller classes and by a world class teacher in a school and system which values its practitioners. I am very proud of our schools and colleges in Stockton South. Many of our schools are good or better than the rest and our colleges offer an excellent range of courses.
Only a Labour government will allow our educational organisations to grow and flourish. We will create a system fit for all. I look forward to spreading our messages on Education Policy on the doors in the coming months ahead.