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Schools And Young People Need To Know They Can Depend On Their Government To Provide An Education System That Works

27/09/2017 15:31 BST | Updated 27/09/2017 15:31 BST
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So here we are in Conference Season.

In a week's time, The Conservatives will be gathering in Manchester. But for now, in Brighton, Labour has the first crack at articulating their vision for education.

It was pretty bold stuff.

You'd hope so, too. As the party in opposition, it's incumbent upon Labour to propose a different path to the one we're currently on. Today Angela Rayner spoke about an education system free at the point of delivery, which many parents and school leaders will welcome.

NAHT's January 'Breaking Point' report revealed that seven out of ten school leaders said their budgets would be unsustainable by 2019.

Bold visions aside, the most acute problem facing schools right now is lack of money.

Any vision for the future has to begin with full and fair funding for all schools, so it is welcome to hear this promise from Labour.

A lack of anything credible to say on school funding from The Conservatives was one of the things that contributed to their poorer than expected General Election result. Nearly a million people switched their votes on Polling Day because the 'school funding has never been higher' mantra rang so hollow.

The reality at the moment is staggeringly different, with schools up and down the country in the ridiculous position of having to ask for handouts from parents.

During the summer, the DfE dug deep and pledged a welcome additional £400m for 2018/19 and £900m in 2019/20. This is nothing like the additional £2bn each year school budgets require, but it was a start.

The pressure is well and truly on the Treasury now.

Will the Autumn Budget be the moment that they step up to the plate and provide extra money for schools as the DfE has done? Or will we have to wait for political change before schools get the money that's required?

At the start of this term, our School Ready report revealed that eight out of ten school leaders said that many children arriving at primary school are not ready to take part in classroom activities.

It is good to hear that Labour believes in investment in the Early Years. We know that if children have access to high-quality provision at this stage of their lives, their chances of success are much improved.

We have also seen how progress made at this stage can falter if later phases of education do not have the funding to capitalise on a good start. The nation's education system does need to be seen as a lifelong mission.

Nor can schools be expected to shoulder the responsibilities of educating the young alone. Businesses must help with career and workplace guidance, starting in primary. Health and social care services must be properly funded in order for children and young people facing challenges to be able to engage with learning.

In one section of her speech, Angela Rayner said of teachers 'They look after our children. We should look after them.'

Many school leaders and school staff do not feel looked after or valued. High performing education systems around the world recognise teaching as a high status profession. In England, teachers work longer and are paid less than their OECD counterparts. This needs to change.

The impact of real terms pay cuts of 10.5% since 2010 is preventing school leaders from recruiting teachers, particularly in challenging schools and areas. Excessive workload is driving talented teachers out of the profession.

There is a danger that when we highlight the problems facing education we're missing the fact that working in a school and playing your part in shaping and improving young people's lives is a wonderful calling to follow. But we must ensure that this generation of learners is not betrayed.

Now, the ball is definitely in the Conservatives' court. Parents, teachers, governors and school leaders will be waiting to hear how they propose to keep standards high and support young people if they are not prepared to put in any extra cash.