On Thursday 6 July Sir Keir Starmer came to Kent to announce the last of the Labour Party’s five missions for government. This one was Education, and the breaking of what he called “the Class Ceiling”. And the venue he chose was Mid Kent College in Gillingham, a notable target in the next General Election for Labour, who won control of the local council in recent elections.
What’s happened so far
The first four missions presented at other venues are:
- Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7.
- Make Britain a clean energy superpower.
- Build an NHS fit for the future.
- Make Britain’s streets safe.
Break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage
In the Gillingham meeting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Education, Bridget Phillipson, took the podium first to introduce the Leader of the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer then began by explaining that this fifth mission is to remove the road blocks in education, largely built on class distinction, which look down on manual skills and only value academic ability. There will be an end to the attitude which says to a child, “This is not for you”, merely on grounds of social class.
Interruption by environmental activists
There was a brief interruption to Sir Keir’s speech, when a couple of rather sheepish students stepped forward hesitantly with a banner protesting that Labour Party policy regarding clean energy had been watered down. Sir Keir assured them that there had been no u-turn, and that the green agenda had been addressed at an earlier gathering. The students were peaceably escorted from the hall by college security.
Sir Keir then resumed his speech setting out five strategies for achieving the goal of shattering the class ceiling.
- Make security the foundation of opportunity
Britain’s success relies on everyone having the chance to get on, but currently too many people are held back by the lack of a secure job, secure home, a safe community and public services that aren’t there when you need them. Labour’s missions will tackle these barriers, giving everyone security.
- Reform childcare and early years support
so children have the best start in life
Children’s earliest years are crucial to their development and their life chances. By the time they start school, children eligible for free school meals are already five months behind their peers. By ensuring families have the early support they need, we can provide every child a firm foundation that sets them up for life.
- Deliver a broader education and the highest standards in schools
Too many children are being let down, leaving school without essential reading, writing or maths skills. Too many are denied the opportunity to participate in arts, digital and sports subjects that develop life skills, like communication, teamwork, and digital skills, which are essential for their futures. Labour will raise school standards for all our children. We’ll ensure every child has the core knowledge and skills they need as part of a broad curriculum, delivered by recruiting and training thousands more expert teachers.
- Provide pathways to good prospects for all
Right now, too many young people leave education without the qualifications they need and without high quality pathways onto apprenticeships, higher level education, or into good secure jobs. By pushing decisions on skills spending out of Westminster we’ll ensure local communities are able to join up training and job opportunities, with training routes coordinated between colleges and universities.
- Spread opportunity beyond education
Conservative governments have been content to lock people out of too many spheres by cultural and social capital, allowing a class ceiling to remain intact for internships, prestigious jobs and in some cases, to getting on. Housing and job insecurity are barriers for too many people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Labour will turn this tide, delivering the opportunities everyone deserves.
Reform of curriculum and OfStEd
Two measures which Sir Kerr announced were first, a shake-up of the national curriculum which would give greater emphasis to practical skills. They plan a broader curriculum, so that all children have access to music, sport and drama. It would also include a sharper focus on children’s communication skills, particularly ‘Oracy’, developing children’s ability and confidence to stand up and express themselves.
This would be accompanied by a review and reform of Ofsted, encouraging a full assessment of a school’s strengths and weaknesses, not reducing the outcome to a single word, a procedure that has drawn much criticism from educationists.
The full speech
Entitled “opportunity, education, and childcare”, the full speech can be read on labour list.