One of the most important pledges that I made in the election campaign of 2019 was to focus on education and children and families. Education is a vital tool for social mobility, to get on in life and whilst a good academic foundation is essential, education is not just about academics. We also need young people trained in technical and vocational skills and I am delighted that the Government is focusing on T levels and apprenticeships alongside academic qualifications.
Giving every child the best start in life is a guiding principle of this Government’s approach to education in England. Every child should have access to equal opportunity and a good education is part of the vital armoury in ensuring this happens, building the foundations they need - confidence, resilience, and commitment - to thrive in adult life. At the end of March, the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, published the Schools White Paper. A few days before it was published, I attended a briefing session with Mr Zahawi, and it was really insightful to discuss the thinking behind the Paper’s proposals. He made it clear that he wanted to focus on a few things and do them well – child focused delivery being key. Skills, schools, and family were the three things he highlighted as being his central focus and this is something that I really welcome.
Education is key to levelling up and one of the main aims of the Education Secretary is to ensure that more children will leave primary school having achieved the expected standards in reading, writing and maths. In 2019, 65% of children leaving primary school achieved this – the aim is that 90% of children will achieve it by 2030. In order to do so, the Government will put in place measures to ensure that every child has an excellent teacher, delivering high standards in the curriculum, behaviour, and attendance, and putting targeted support in place for those who need it. This will be underpinned by a stronger and fairer school system that helps every child to fulfil their potential by ensuring that they receive the right support, in the right place, and at the right time.
From my experience as a former school governor, I am well aware that strong leadership, structure, and excellent teaching makes a great school. A good headteacher encourages and facilitates professional development in teachers, and I welcome the focus on teacher development in the White Paper with the single biggest programme of teacher development and investment in furthering their skills. Good teachers are vital in ensuring our children thrive and I cannot praise our local heads and teachers enough for all the work that they do for our children and young people. I know from personal experience how dedicated they are.
I have consistently lobbied Ministers in the Department for Education about improving education and investment into Hastings and Rye schools, and I was delighted that not only was East Sussex recently designated as an Education Investment Area (one of 55 areas to receive targeted support to help young people from all backgrounds receive improved standards of education), but Hastings and Rye as a Priority Education Investment Area too. As a priority area we will receive tailored support to address our local needs - more intensive investment to tackle wider issues including entrenched barriers that might be limiting school improvement, in addition to the substantial support offered to all Education Investment Areas. As Hastings is an Opportunity Area, the significant investment will work towards embedding successful interventions and drive further progress.
Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Developing and investing in an education system which not only focuses on academics and technical skills, but also guides and supports children in their future career paths is critical, as well as facilitates critical thinking and promotes free speech is key. Good career guidance is also a vital, showing young people, whatever their family or social background, the options open to them, helping them make the right choices for them, and set them on the path to a rewarding future. This is why I was very happy to support the Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill, that has now received Royal Assent. Investing in our children is investing for our future.