Politics

Citizenship reforms, digital skills and careers advice: Starmer sets out his plan for schools

Labour announces raft of measures to be paid-for with money raised from lifting private schools' VAT exemption

Labour announces raft of measures to be paid-for with money raised from lifting private schools' VAT exemption

Labour will reform citizenship teaching to include “practical life skills”, introduce two weeks’ compulsory work experience and give schools access to a careers adviser once a week, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

If it wins power, the party will also specify “mandatory” digital skills to be embedded “across the curriculum”, give “every child” access to extracurricular activities and establish a fund to “renew” the 1.3 million laptops and other devices sent out to children’s homes during the pandemic.

The measures, set out today ahead of Starmer’s conference speech on Wednesday, would be paid for with an estimated £1.7 billion to be raised by ending the VAT and business rates exemption for private schools.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, Starmer said the country “can’t justify” the charitable status afforded to the independent school sector.

“Labour wants every parent to be able to send their child to a great state school. But improving them to benefit everyone costs money. That’s why we can’t justify continued charitable status for private schools.”

Today, the Labour leader set out plans which he said would make sure every child leaves school “job-ready and life-ready”.

Starmer sets out plan to spend private school VAT cash

Under the proposals, Labour would “refocus the curriculum, deliver new opportunities for digital skills, practical work and life skills, sport and the arts, and give every child access to a professional careers adviser, to make sure every child leaves school ready for work and ready for life”.

This would include reforming the citizenship programme within the national curriculum to include “practical life skills, such as such as pension planning, understanding credit scores, applying for a mortgage and understanding employment and rental contracts”.

Labour would also provide £250 million to local authorities to re-engage the 65,000 16 to 17 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs)

The party would also introduce two weeks’ worth of compulsory work experience, to “connect young people with local employers and build the skills needed for work”, and give schools access to a professional careers adviser “one day a week”.

To ensure children leave school with the “level of functional computer skills needed to succeed in the workplace”, Labour will also guarantee “every child has access to a device at home”.

This would be done by establishing a “device renewal fund”, out of which local authorities can “fund renewing the 1.3 million devices delivered during the pandemic as a permanent scheme for children without adequate access to a device”.

‘Mandatory’ digital skills ‘across the curriculum’

The party would also specify “mandatory skills which must be embedded across the curriculum, to ensure a whole school approach to developing digital skills in every lesson”.

This would include “basic digital skills development in the computing curriculum, not just computer science”.

Finally, Labour has announced a “10 by 10 pledge”, which would provide that “as we recover from the pandemic, every primary and secondary child should have access to weekly extracurricular activities and after school clubs”.

This could include “the Duke of Edinburgh award, highly valued by employers, sports clubs, drama and music, debating or book clubs”.

It comes after Starmer used an essay for the Fabian Society to argue that all children should have a chance to play an instrument, join a sports team and visit the seaside by the time they’re 10.

Today, the Labour leader said employers “all around the country, in every sector, have told me how much they need well-rounded young people with relevant skills, literate in technology, equipped for life”.

“And young people have told me how ambitious they are for their own futures.

“That’s why Labour would create an education system that would give every child the skills for the future.”

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