I recently invited the principals and vice principals of every secondary school in the city, along with other local educational experts, to a discussion with Tristram Hunt and myself on the future of education and young people in our city.
I have a basic principal when thinking about the next generation: I believe that every young person has the potential to succeed, but some need extra support to get there.
This is also my own story. I left school with no usable qualifications. I was mentored by Anita and Gordon Roddick from The Body Shop as a youngster and they were the first people ever to say to me, ‘you should think about going to university’. The trouble was I was 25 when they said it, so in order to fulfil my potential I had to return to secondary school and sit in a classroom of teenagers for a year to get the qualifications I needed to go to Sussex Univeristy. Most young people today won’t have a second chance like I did so we have to get it right first time around.
Tristram learned first hand from our discussion and I’m really pleased that the results are in evidence today as Labour launched its national Education Manifesto. Highlights are:
-We will protect the entire education budget, including early years and post-16 education and skills.
-We’ll restore the Surestart programme, including those axed by this government.
-We’ll tackle failing schools by establishing new Directors of School Standards to support local schools to improve and respond to the concerns of parents.
I’m chair of governors of a local school and I’ve seen first hand what it takes to turn things around and improve the outcomes for young people. It takes world-class leadership, consistently excellent teaching, and a universal believe that every young person can, and should, succeed. The astonishing amount of work that goes into our schools by teachers and staff is a wonder and at times we ask too much of them. I’m pleased Tristram has also announced ways in which Labour will work alongside teachers to lesson the workload and get them focussed on the classroom work they are trained for and love so much.
Today’s national announcements work really well alongside those already announced by our local Labour team. We’ve pledged to end youth unemployment and to build a local secondary school and finally release the reform document on catchment areas to enable more students to go to the school best suited to their needs and aspirations.
The next generation of our city will need to cope with more challenges than many of us experienced when we were their age, so it’s right we invest in them and do everything we can to make sure they emerge into a world that they are fully equipped to tackle, make the most of, and contribute to in new and exciting ways. All the best, Peter