We Need a Government Who Will Put Future Generations at Its Heart

16/05/2016 12:38 | Updated 16 May 2016

In the last year we have seen this Government lurch from crisis to crisis, falling out with everyone from NHS staff, to local authorities, to teachers, and even falling out amongst themselves over the European Referendum. They've been so preoccupied with firefighting, that they have shown us nothing in the way of a vision or a long-term strategy.

This Wednesday they have an opportunity to change that when they announce their plans for the next year in the Queen's Speech. What we need, and what we deserve, is a distinctive, radical plan to deliver for future generations, and which puts education and opportunity for all at its heart. That is the kind of strategy the Liberal Democrats are offering. The consequences of failing to think long term could be catastrophic for generations to come.

The future is full of exciting opportunities, as technology changes the way we work and live. However, there are also massive challenges, from giving people the skills they need to adapt to our changing economy, to tackling climate change.

Education is key to meeting these challenges. That is why the Liberal Democrat vision is for a country which enshrines the rights of every child to a decent education. We believe this should be the number one priority of the Government when they set out their agenda. We are calling for a Charter for Education which guarantees every child is taught a curriculum which includes creative arts subjects, sports, languages, technical and vocational courses and practical life skills.

Over the years education has become more about passing tests and getting a good Ofsted rating than making sure children get the skills they need and grow into healthy, happy and confident adults. This is harmful for young people, and my fear is that it will leave them ill-equipped to deal with the challenges - and opportunities - of the future.

Equally, we have seen teachers grow increasingly demoralised under the burden of tougher inspections and increasingly rigorous assessments. It doesn't need to be like this. Inspections and assessments should serve one purpose only: to aid improvements in standards. The way they are structured now does more to hinder children's progress and wellbeing than to enhance it.

The Liberal Democrats' proposed Charter for Education would include:

1. Guarantee every teacher in state funded schools are qualified, or working towards qualification

2. Guarantee every child is taught the sort of broad and balanced curriculum which includes creative arts subjects, sports, technical and vocational courses and practical life skills.

3. Work with teachers to devise new ways of carrying out inspections and assessments, to reduce the bureaucratic pressures placed on teachers and pupils.

4. Extend free school meals to all primary school students

5. Prevent schools from being forced to academise.

Education has always been at the heart of the Liberal Democrats' vision. It is the key to delivering freedom and opportunity for every young person. By contrast, this Government's policies could be deeply damaging. They are obsessed with pet projects like forced academisation, despite no evidence at all that this will improve standards.

We want a Government which is optimistic and ambitious; that puts improving the lives of generations to come first and that equips us all with the skills to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future. The Charter for Education sits alongside a range of measures, on the future of the economy, tackling climate change and ensuring the long term future of the NHS that the Lib Dems have said should be included in the Queen's Speech.

So this is our challenge to the Government: we need an education system that enables young people to reach their potential, we need a skilled workforce able to adapt to a changing economy and we need a sustainable plan to tackle climate change. If you are a Government with a real vision, you need to prove it. If you lack the vision, the ambition, that the country deserves then it will be down to my party to be the voice of the next generation and we will never stop fighting their corner.

Tim Farron is the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale