Speech – Annual Conference of the Labour Party (2022)
Liverpool, 28 September 2022
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Conference, it is the greatest privilege of all, to be here today as Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary.
Heading a fantastic team of Shadow Education Ministers.
Because nothing is more important to our futures, than education.
As Keir said yesterday, Labour will run towards the challenges of tomorrow.
And if we are to solve the biggest challenges we face, spreading prosperity, tackling climate change, revitalizing our communities, and building a fairer, greener future, in a world where children born today will live into the next century, where workplaces are changing as never before, where reskilling throughout life is essential, then education must be at the heart of every part of that.
And we must build a future where children come first.
Conference, this is personal for me.
My mam brought me up on her own.
I remember my time at school under the Tories.
Classes too big, books too few.
Money short and opportunities rare.
Families like mine judged, not helped.
I was lucky.
I had a loving family, who valued education.
I went to great state schools.
With teachers who saw the value and worth, in each and every one of us.
But life should not come down to luck.
That is why I am determined that every child, in every school, in every corner of our country, should have the best possible start.
So we need a fresh vision of that education.
One that looks to the future, not the past.
A curriculum that prizes skills, as well as knowledge.
That values and nurtures creativity, alongside academic success.
We need an education system that enables every child to achieve and thrive.
Our priorities will define that vision.
Conference, that is why we will end the tax breaks private schools enjoy.
We will use that money to deliver the most ambitious school improvement programme, for a generation.
Recruiting thousands more teachers, to help children excel in science and maths, and thrive with access to sport, art, music, and drama.
Working with brilliant teachers, leaders, support staff and unions, we will drive up standards everywhere.
We will build a modern careers advice and work experience system.
So young people across our schools and colleges leave education, ready for work and ready for life.
Conference, it is the simple language of priorities.
The Tories put the richest first.
We put children first.
We know these Tories will go on making the wrong choices.
Because education, under this government, is like a school maths problem.
If you have five education secretaries in one year.
Three of them, who haven’t got a clue what they are doing.
Two of them, who want a return to the Fifties.
What have you got left?
I’ll tell you.
A government that is failing our children.
Childcare in crisis.
A recovery programme in chaos.
School buildings collapsing.
A skills system unfit for today, never mind tomorrow.
Universities treated as a political battleground, not a public good.
Conference, we will make different choices.
For children and families across this country.
For the world our children will inherit.
Today parents spend more on childcare than on their rent or mortgages.
Yet what do we see?
Mams giving up the jobs they love, because they can’t drop their kids at school and get to work on time.
The Tories denying parents choices, denying children the best start they deserve.
Because the evidence couldn’t be clearer: gaps in learning and development, gaps in opportunities, open up early.
So, our plan must start early too.
So today Conference, I can tell you that the next Labour government will build a modern childcare system.
One that supports families from the end of parental leave, right through to the end of primary school.
One that gives our children the start to their day, and the start to their life, they deserve.
One that gives parents time to succeed, and our economy the chance to grow.
Conference, as the first step on that road, today I can announce that we will introduce breakfast clubs for every child in every primary school in England.
Breakfast clubs drive up standards and achievement.
They improve behaviour, and attendance.
Because it’s about the club, as well as the breakfast.
They enable parents to work.
They give mams and dads choices.
And they will help us build the economy we all need, and the society we all want.
Conference, we will fund this landmark first step on that road by restoring the higher income tax rate for the very richest.
Because Conference, our children, are our priority.
And while education starts in childhood, it doesn’t end there.
The skills system should support people, to reskill and upskill, it should support companies, to invest in their future, and in ours.
Conference, it doesn’t, it needs to change, and change it we will.
It doesn’t end there.
Conference, that’s why our announcement yesterday, building on the work of David Blunkett, and the Council of Skills Advisors, is crucial.
By reforming the Apprenticeships Levy, we will give people opportunities, to retrain, to upskill, and to learn throughout life.
And we’ll drive a focus on growth across government.
By creating Skills England, to bring together businesses, unions, and training providers, to work in partnership, leading a national mission to upskill our country.
Conference, education is about opportunity.
For each of us, for all of us, all our life long.
But it’s about opportunity for our whole country too.
The opportunities we all gain from a growing economy, where working parents are supported to succeed, where all our children can achieve and thrive.
That is the society Labour wants to build.
We will only build that fairer society, of which we all dream, by closing the gap, among our children and young people.
Conference, Education transformed my life.
I know it can transform every life.
It will be my mission as your Education Secretary, to make sure it does.