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Labour on Education

In her recent speech to Labour conference in Brighton, Angela Rayner’s message was clear: that of education as a universal right. From Sure Start to Life Long Learning, Rayner spoke of education as key to the realisation of human potential. She reminded conference of Jennie Lee’s founding of the Open University, fifty years previously, and the possibility of second chances.

Of the policies mentioned by Rayner, integrating ‘all private schools into the state sector’, supported by delegates, has caused the most controversy. Rayner said that Labour’s first budget would ‘close the tax loopholes used by the elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children.’

Julie Robinson, CEO of the Independent Schools Council, responded in a press release (22 Sept 2019) as follows:

‘The repercussions would be irreversible and far-reaching, damaging educational opportunities and limiting life chances.’

A cautionary note was also added by Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, (ASCL). Writing in the TES (23 Sept 2019), he said that the policy did ‘have some serious consequences,’ amongst which would be ‘the closure of small private schools, disrupting the students … and putting pressure on places in local state schools.’ Barton went on to say that it was interesting that Rayner had not repeated this year her negative comments about Academies made in her 2018 speech, in which she had pledged to end ‘the Tories’ academy and free-school programmes.’

On the Andrew Marr show, (29 Sept 2019), Angela Rayner emphasised that she wanted ‘to stop subsidising private education … which entitles 7% of the population to do better than the rest.’

Other policies outlined by Rayner in her conference speech included delivering a ‘renewed Sure Start programme’, called Sure Start Plus; free nursery education for 2 to 4 year olds, ‘led by professionals’; an end to university, further and adult education tuition fees and the introduction of a price cap on the cost of school uniforms. Furthermore, Rayner spoke of the importance of sex and relationships education, saying that Labour would introduce clear national guidelines and stand by teachers. Labour, she said would replace Ofsted, with ‘a new system of peer review … led by the experts in our schools.’

The intention, said Rayner, was to create in education ‘a new universal basic service.’ This, she continued was ‘the heart of a National Education Service - the fundamental belief that education is a right for all, not just a privileged few.’ It would, she added, ‘set out clearly to all of our citizens their basic rights to education throughout their lives.’

Karen Horn - Market Researcher

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