Meeting with Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of state for Education
Our education system needs proper investment, for our children's futures, access to education in later life, and better pay and conditions for our teachers.
Spending on schools has fallen, students are being priced out of a university education and further education and skills has been chronically underfunded. Through our National Education Service, Labour will support and invest in education and training from cradle to grave to ensure that education works for the many, not the few.
Our schools in South Gloucestershire are some the most underfunded in the country. We’ve faced cuts of £26.7m in our area since 2015. Labour will stop the underfunding of our school budgets, and introduce a real-terms increase in funding.
I will personally fight to rectify the historic underfunding of our schools in our area.
We also need to address pressures on class sizes. There are 353 pupils in class sizes over 30 in South Gloucestershire, and we will need 634 additional school places by 2023. Labour will reduce class sizes to less than 30 for primary school age children and consider how teaching assistants are resourced. To give all children the best start in life, we need a coherent schools programme, that builds capacity in existing schools and, where relevant, new facilities.
For those children with additional needs, we are facing a crisis in funding and support. Every child deserves to have the best start to life, but without adequate high needs funding, over 1700 children in South Gloucestershire will be left behind and not get the proper education they deserve.
The current inspections system is also unfair, unreliable, and often results in schools failing to improve. Labour will support HMI within a new National Inspections Framework, based on the London Challenge model of improvement.
Lastly, schools have the opportunity to tackle the issues around child poverty. In Bristol, the Feeding Bristol project has worked to ensure no child goes hungry during the school holidays. Breakfast clubs and lunches are also important, and 20896 extra primary school children will benefit from a free school meal under Labour in South Gloucestershire. In addition to helping some of Filton & Bradley Stoke’s struggling families, and remove the stigma of free school meals, this will help with tackling child health issues such as obesity.
Labour would introduce free, lifelong education in Further Education (FE) colleges, enabling everyone to up-skill or retrain at any point in life.
Our skills and training sector has been held back by repeated reorganisation, which deprives providers, learners and employers of the consistency they need to assess quality. Labour would abandon Conservative plans to once again reinvent the wheel by building new technical colleges, redirecting the money to increase teacher numbers in the FE sector.
We share the broad aims of the Sainsbury Review but would ensure vocational routes incorporate the service sector as well as traditional manufacturing, working in tandem with our broad industrial strategy to deliver for the whole economy.
SGS FE College in Filton has been one of the best performing Further Education establishments in the country. However it has suffered from cuts since 2010 that have harmed its ability to continue to serve the local community, as your MP I will listen to local colleges and fight to make sure that the colleges like SGS gets fairer funding.
Labour will also re-introduce the scrapped education maintenance grants which supported disadvantaged young people to stay in college by supporting them with the cost of living.
I have worked at the University of the West of England since 2011 and witnessed first hand the challenges faced by education institutions and students as the result of cuts and poor policy from this Conservative Government.
Labour believes education should be free, and we will restore this principle. No one should be put off educating themselves, for lack of money or through fear of debt. Since 2016 we have seen the steepest fall in university applications for 30 years, and there is a concern that students are being priced out, and the marketisation of our education system, means that expectations do not always match reality. Since the Conservatives came to power, university tuition fees have been trebled to over £9,000 a year, and maintenance grants have been abolished and replaced with loans. The average student now graduates from university, and starts their working life, with debts of £44,000.
Labour will re-introduce maintenance grants for university students, and we will abolish university tuition fees. University tuition is free in many northern European countries, and under a Labour government, it will be free here too.
How has our former Conservative MP voted?