In a speech tomorrow hosted by the think tank Demos at Microsoft’s Headquarters in London, Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, will say that the Government is in danger of preparing young people for a world that no longer exists.
Andy Burnham will say:
“Michael Gove is the modern-day political equivalent of Michael J Fox in Back to the Future – trapped in the 1950s.
“It’s hard to understand the thought process that suggests the way forward for England’s schools in the 21st century is a ‘gold standard’ measurement system that values Latin above Engineering, Business Studies or ICT.
“We need to ensure all young people are stretched academically – for example, by more state schools offering triple science at GCSE. But we also need to promote high-quality vocational learning, like the Engineering Diploma.
“The Government risks taking us back to a two-tier system where technical or practical is second-best, our education system is divided, and a generation of children failed.”
Andy Burnham will say that Labour’s Schools Policy Review is looking at how to build a school system based on three clear principles:
- Where hard work is properly rewarded, by giving all young people something to aim for – building on our work in Government to expand university and apprenticeship places
- Where we reach every single child, by judging schools on the difference they make for every individual – including how far schools stretch the brightest
- Where learning is made relevant to life today, building the character and qualities young people will need to succeed in the 21st century
Burnham will also say:
“We need an education policy that is both forward-looking and reasserts the broad view of education. We must avoid a future where schools are obsessed with rote learning of facts to pass exams.
“Schools should build strong and prosperous communities in which all young people are ready and able to fulfil their potential – as citizens, employees, employers, mums, dads, carers and neighbours. And from there we need to focus relentlessly on the future – what will young people need to flourish as individuals in the 21st century?
“Labour’s Schools Policy Review is looking at how we ensure all young people have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and attributes they need for the modern world. Like giving all young people the chance to have one-to-one catch-up tuition if they fall behind in the basics, undertake work experience and volunteering, and practice the independent research skills that universities and employers look for.”
He will claim that the Government is failing to tackle these big questions and instead pursuing structural changes that will be irrelevant for many families.
Andy Burnham will also say:
“By setting out an alternative vision today, I hope to refocus the education debate away from an obsession with structural reform and back on more fundamental questions: what are schools for? what do employers want from them?
“The Government urgently needs to provide its answers to these questions and then show how its structural reforms can deliver that vision. If it continues to fail to do that, it risks making its own reform programme an irrelevant sideshow: reform for its own sake where what matters is the numbers game rather than what schools are doing to address the big challenges of this century.”