As kitchen tables transformed into classrooms during the pandemic, parents have become more involved in their children’s learning than ever before. The insight this has given them – not just into how their children are doing at school, but what they are learning – is prompting a new debate. Parents are now asking whether the education their children receive is doing all it can to equip them for life.
This is about much more than just knowledge; it is about life skills, ensuring children leave education as confident, capable young people with strong communication, teamwork and problem solving skills. Skills that employers across sectors and industries have told me they are looking for in the workers of the future, for a strong economy and successful businesses.
But that means ensuring that opportunities to develop these skills are available to every child. Whether it’s a drama club that develops public speaking, a sports club that promotes teamwork or a book club that develops analysis and literacy skills, Labour believes every child should benefit from a broad, enriching education which makes the most of the brilliant facilities in our schools. Most importantly, we want to ensure the education children receive supports their own ambitions for their future, enabling them to fulfil their potential.
That’s why Labour has set out an ambitious Children’s Recovery Plan giving every child new opportunities to learn, play and develop. Labour’s plan would extend the school day to create time for a range of enriching activities from art and sport to cooking and coding, so children develop social skills, work together with their peers and enjoy new experiences. And it’s why this week Labour announced that we would give every child access to digital devices and embed digital skills across the curriculum so all young people have the digital capability which is and will be fundamental to our lives.
Labour’s recovery plan recognises that learning and well-being go hand-in-hand. So we would reform the government’s failing tutoring programme to reach not just 3 per cent of children, but every child in need of this targeted support, and we would put qualified mental health counsellors in every school so children are well supported and ready to learn.
We know a world class education requires world class teaching, so Labour would invest in professional development for teachers and teaching assistants, ensuring they are equipped to help children bounce back from the pandemic and progress.
Labour’s plan offers a guarantee to children and parents that we will ensure every child receives the support and opportunities they deserve. But where Labour shares children’s high aspirations for their future, the government has let them down. Young people and parents deserve better than the Conservatives’ meagre catch-up plan.
Young people across the country have told me that by the time they leave school they want to “know how to be adults”. That they want to know how to achieve their ambitions, and how to write a CV and complete a job application. They want experience in the workplace, and to know what careers are right for them.
Labour is listening. That’s why Keir Starmer has set out plans to ensure young people are work-ready by introducing two weeks’ worth of work experience for every young person, and putting professional careers advisors in every school, to support young people to make informed choices about the route that’s right for them – whether it’s A-levels, apprenticeships, BTECs or university.
There are over 120,000 young people aged 16-18 not in education, employment or training last year. This has to change. We need strong local strategies to re-engage these young people, to ensure opportunities are available to them and they can make the most of their potential. Labour councils and mayors are already doing this but we need to spread good practice across the country and get every young person on the path that’s right for them, so Labour would work with local authorities and give them the resources to meet young people’s needs.
While the Conservatives are failing young people – from our youngest children who have lost language and crucial early development, right through to 18 year olds who have fallen out of the system and are simply being ignored – Labour, businesses, teachers, parents and young people know there is another way. Labour’s innovative plans would bring employers, educators and local leaders together to deliver on a shared determination and commitment to put our children first.
Our guarantee to parents and children is to raise the bar, to raise expectations for the education that every child is entitled to, to help every child to achieve their dreams, and to make Britain the best place to grow up.
Kate Green MP is the shadow secretary of state for education