THE BLOG
15/10/2013 07:52 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Forgotten 50%

It has been over three years since Michael Gove, the education secretary has been in his brief. He has used his position in the department of education to pursue what some see as a ideologically driven path, with free schools and transforming the educational curriculum.

From the opposition benches Labour's have highlighted Gove's failings, from his departments poor communication with teaching unions to the poor oversight of the free school programme leading to school closures and poor governance. Ed Milliband has increased the pressure on Gove by appointing a new Shadow Education secretary, Tristram Hunt, a bright academic, excellent communicator with a welcoming manner, a great asset to Labour's front bench team.

On Sunday's Andrew Marr show, Hunt announced Labour's educational policy towards free schools, outlining that Labour will continue the free school programme, however with a different approach to the conservatives, a focus on parent-led academies. Developing a programme with better oversight and strategic planning, where schools are created in areas of the most needs rather than areas with surplus school places.

In addition Hunt will focus on the forgotten 50% of young people who don't go on to higher education, with a greater emphasis on effective vocational training schemes and apprenticeship programmes which are valued by the public and work, while continuing to improve and maintain standards in education.

This may be Hunt's most biggest challenge, with a recent OECD report urging the expansion of post-secondary vocational education and training opportunities in the UK. The demands of employers and skills needed by students are changing, to few students are taking up the opportunity of one and two-year vocational training programmes. This trend has to be reversed, if we are to train a new generation with the skills needed to compete on the global stage.

The public acknowledgement of the success of the Free school programme by Hunt shows that Labour will be pragmatic when in government. A party ready to govern, not blinded by ideology using evidence to drive policy.

Hunt's announcement has also led to attacks from both the left and right, with conservative claiming Labour has a made U-turn in it's policy towards free school. While some grassroots Labour party members still strongly oppose free schools, with many wanting to know what role local authorities will play in education under a Labour Government.

In announcing the policy of continuing parent-led academies and shifting the emphasis towards vocational training and the forgotten 50%, Hunt has given Labour's education policy clarity and direction. The public now know where Labour stands and what Hunt plans to do with the Education brief once in power.

Education, Education, Education, it will be one of the key policy areas Labour and Conservatives will battle over in 2015. In Tristram Hunt, Micheal Gove has a formidable opponent, he will need to re-think his approach if the Conservatives are to convince the public that Britain's education system is secure in their hands.