Education reform was the sole policy area Ed Miliband detailed in his widely-praised speech on Tuesday – and today, in the final session of party conference, Stephen Twigg expanded upon those plans, while also attacking Michael Gove’s failure to deliver.
The shadow education secretary said:
“How does removing the right to work experience help young people get ready for a job? Now more than ever, young people need quality work experience.
“In primary school, companies should provide ‘work discovery’ programmes and in secondary school, every young person should get work experience linked to their studies not just two weeks of photocopying.
“Labour will meet the challenge of every young person staying on until 18. As Ed said on Tuesday, there is already a clear path for those who do A Levels and then go to university.
“But we need a clear path for the forgotten 50 per cent. So we will create a new, gold standard vocational qualification – the Technical Baccalaureate.
“Michael Gove wants narrow, elitist education. We are the party of One Nation education.
“Instead of going back to O-levels, we will look forward. Instead of coming up with a plan on the back of an envelope, we will engage the experts – in business and education.
“Every young person must study English and Maths until 18. Incredibly, we are one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t require this.
“And all schools should ensure pupils get a minimum of two hours of PE a week, and that every pupil in every school gets a healthy meal.”
While on Gove specifically, he added:
“The Tories claim they want high standards. But they’ve put standards at risk. The biggest cuts to education since the ‘50s, and teacher numbers falling.
“Young people held back. Like the thousands who lost out, when their GCSE English was downgraded.
“Michael Gove washed his hands of responsibility.
“So much for “we’re all in this together”. His message to young people is – you’re on your own.
“It’s no wonder that One Nation Conservatives don’t agree with him. Ken Baker, the former Education Secretary says Labour is right on vocational education, and the Conservative MP Graham Stuart says Michael Gove’s new exams are ill conceived and incoherent.
“We know Michael Gove is wrong, but even Conservatives think he’s extreme and out of touch.
“He claims to be in favour of rigour. But he is totally outdated. Rote learning and regurgitating facts. An exam system from the 1950s.”
Twigg also outlined plans for a New Deal for teachers; an aim of doubling the number of Teach First recruits to 2,000; the development of ‘teacher taster’ sessions for those who want more of a feel for the job; and a new National College for Teaching Excellence.
And on free schools, he said:
“What about free schools? On the one hand, some of them are good.
“School 21 in Newham. Popular with parents. They use groundbreaking techniques to raise standards for some of the poorest children.
“Labour can’t be against schools that drive up standards and narrow the gap in life chances.
“But there are serious problems with Michael Gove’s centralised Free Schools programme.
“He thinks the way to build new schools is to throw darts at a map. So while there’s a crisis in primary school places, Free Schools are built in areas with spare places.
“And unlike Labour’s academies, there’s no focus on under-performance or social and economic need…
“We know what Michael Gove really wants – profit-making schools. Let me be clear: I will never allow profit-making schools.
“But the key to One Nation Education is not the type of school but what happens in the classroom.”
Under Gove, 10,000 teachers have left the profession – just one stat Twigg cited to highlight the Tories’ dire legacy for schools, teachers, pupils and parents – for the whole nation.