This week in Parliament has seen the publication of a White Paper – a document setting out the government’s plans for new laws and spending – on education.
It has been a little over two years since schools were closed to most pupils, and this should have been a real chance to see an ambitious plan for the best possible education for our children after the disruption caused by the pandemic.
But the White Paper was not that plan. After 12 years of Conservative government, it was little more than re-announcements. It came nowhere near matching the scale of the generational challenge facing our children.
The Education Secretary’s big ideas were few. One of them was that three quarters of our schools should carry on teaching the hours that they already teach.
Another was his plan, that when children are falling behind, schools should be there to help. But that is what schools do. It is what teachers do. It is hardly new and exciting. After 12 years in power, all the Tories can do is tell schools to keep going as usual, and claim “school” as a new idea.
Meanwhile 12 years of Conservative rule has meant that the gap in educational outcomes between rich and poor has been widening.
Even before the pandemic, young people’s attainment at school was going backwards. In Sunderland, the number of children achieving the required level at GCSE has fallen by 18% cent since 2015.
Children are too often an afterthought for this government, which made its priorities clear when in summer 2020 it reopened pubs before it reopened schools.
To me, and to Labour, education is about opportunity, and I want opportunity for every child in every corner of our country.
We want every young person to achieve and thrive, and to leave education ready for work and ready for life.
That’s why we would deliver careers advice, work experience and digital skills for all our young people.
The government’s White Paper is a huge missed opportunity.