Twenty-seven years ago, in a speech setting out the priorities for what would go on to become the Labour Government in 1997, Tony Blair said his government would be focused on “Education, Education, Education”.
The last Labour government did so much for children and young people, lifting many out of poverty, increasing access and opportunity for education, providing Sure Start centres and much more. These achievements have been decimated over the last 13 years of Conservative rule, which means it is up to what I hope will be an incoming Labour government to make education fairer and freer to all again, regardless of your wealth and where you live.
This weekend just gone, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Education, Bridget Phillipson MP, began to set out our plan for this and it was wonderful to see. The fundamental basis of Phillipson’s plan is that the opportunities offered to young people should not be down to luck, it should not be down to a postcode lottery, but instead those opportunities should be open to all, fairly and freely and should not be dictated by the wealth of a child’s parents.
The Shadow Minister for Education set out plans to offer incentives to teachers to stay in the classroom. We know we are losing teaching staff at a rate of knots, and this is not just down to pay, but by making it more appealing to teachers to stay it is a step in the right direction.
Secondly, Labour would have teams that go to schools that have been deemed “failing” to support them to improve. We know “failing” schools tend to be in areas of poverty, not in wealthy suburbs, so these plans are welcome in ensuring that schools in areas of socio-economic deprivation can improve, with support, meaning that those children that attend these facilities have the opportunity to thrive and meet their potential.
Unfortunately, there are many areas in South East Cornwall in poverty. We have long been the forgotten corner of Cornwall, life has got harder for folk that live here, and schools have got poorer.
According to the NEU website, schoolcuts.org.uk, nearly every school here in South East Cornwall faces funding deficits in the current year. While our teachers and teaching assistants go further and further, and work harder and harder, to ensure that our children do not feel those cuts too harshly this simply is not good enough for our children and grandchildren.
For me, the beginnings of a strong and effective education policy from the Labour Party provide, finally, a glimmer of hope that under a Labour Government “Education, Education, Education” will again be front and centre.