Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
Parents across the country know how schools and school leaders adapt daily to the circumstances of their pupils, from changing staffing patterns, to doing trips to the coast or to local museums, or deciding which GCSE syllabus is the right one for their students.
Now imagine if it were not the headteacher, or classroom teacher deciding which GCSEs pupils are offered, when the school day starts in a rural area with infrequent public transport, or who will be the new head of Year 7, but the secretary of state in Westminster. That is the power of the Schools Bill. It gives the secretary of state sweeping powers to control the day to day running of schools through regulation.
Yet at the same time as amassing powers in the hands of the secretary of state, the Schools Bill remains devoid of serious ideas. On the major issues of children’s pandemic recovery, on teacher recruitment and retention, of the 200,000 primary age children living in areas with no good or outstanding schools or ensuring young people leave education with the skills they need to thrive at work and throughout their lives, there’s silence.
It could not be clearer that we have a government at odds with itself, tying itself in knots trying to undo messes of their own making, with no idea how to use their powers to drive-up standards and outcomes for our children.
Where the government is in a mess, Labour is clear: our priority will always be the children in the classroom, putting them first and supporting them to achieve and thrive. Under Keir Starmer, Labour has already started to set out ambitious plans to drive up standards across our schools. By ending tax breaks for private schools, we would recruit thousands of new teachers, filling vacancies and skills gaps that have opened-up during a decade of Conservative government. We would put professional careers advisors in every school, ensure every pupil takes part in quality work experience and ensure digital access by maintaining the laptops and tablets distributed throughout the pandemic, so that young people leave education ready for work and ready for life.
Our amendments to the bill will chart this course. From requiring all schools to demonstrate how they are embedding digital and life skills throughout children’s learning, to ensuring all teachers have qualified teacher status we will be relentlessly focused on improving outcomes and opportunities for every child.
Labour knows education is the most important opportunity we give children. In government we put education at the heart of our ambition for Britain, and will do so again with high standards, a broad and enriching school experience which instils in young people a love of learning they can carry throughout their lives. My life was transformed by great local state schools, and I want to give that opportunity to every child.
This article was originally published in Times Red Box