We will build a new National Education Service, open to all throughout their lives. We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life, allowing greater sharing of caring responsibilities and removing barriers to women participating in the labour market. We will bring about the progressive restoration of free education for all; and guarantee quality apprenticeships and adult skills training.
Education is the foundation of a civilised society. At one time it was the preserve of the rich, as ordinary people had to go to work whilst still children. They had no chance of improving their lot in life. Only over the last century have we really seen education for all, with compulsory schooling to first 15, then 16 and now 18, and grants for university education allowing anyone to go to university. In addition, we have had Adult Education classes to enable people to continue learning throughout their lives, and the jewel in the crown, the Open University, which has changed the face of degree level study for millions who have studied as adults. Even this has now become inaccessible to many due to the increase in fees.
University Tuition Fees are now so high that many people simply cannot afford university. The average debt on graduation is £44,000 (Sutton Trust, Degrees of Debt, 2016) which is the highest in the English speaking world. In practice most of this debt will never be repaid as graduates also struggle to find work whch pays enough to start repaying their debt. But still it will hang over them, affecting their lives for decades, in a negative way, rather than the degree they have worked so hard for being of real benefit as they begin their working lives.
The fragmentation of the schools system with academies and free schools, able to recruit unqualified staff, and no longer having to be accountable to local councils, and the continuing domination of independent schools means that for many of our young people there is no real opportunity for them to reach their true potential.
Labour’s Sure Start programme was an attempt to give all our children a good start, but it has been systematically destroyed over the last 6 years.
We want parents to be able to go to work, and be able to rely on high quality nursery education, which doesn’t cost more than they are earning.
Wouldn’t a National Education Service, providing quality education for all, throughout their lives, open up a whole world of possibilities? Just like the NHS changed lives and became something on which we all rely.
What the government seems to forget is that if someone becomes a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher, we all benefit. Education is not just for the individual. It’s for all of us. It’s not just about knowledge to enable us to work, it’s a civilising experience that enriches all of our lives.
That’s why it’s one of Labour’s key pledges, one of the cornerstones of our society, and of the most successful societies across the world.