Draft charter outlines ‘principles’ of Labour’s National Education Service

The Labour Party has explained more about its proposed National Education Service, in a draft charter that all schools would be required to sign up to.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, will launch the charter during her speech at the party’s annual conference in Brighton this afternoon.

The National Education Service is Labour’s umbrella term for a raft of reforms, including increases in schools funding, free adult education and the return of the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16- to 19-year-olds.

They’re binning their manifesto, we are building on ours

Rayner will today accuse the government of failure on education issues, claiming the Conservatives have spent the last few months “ripping up their own manifesto page by page”.

Unlike the government’s policies, the National Education Service will be “lifelong, providing for people at every stage of their life”, she will say, and “not just another structure, not another new sign on the school gate”.

“Theresa May’s education ministers have spent the last few months ripping up their own manifesto page by page. They wanted to open new grammar schools. But they can’t. They said they’d build 140 free schools. They couldn’t. They pledged the healthy pupils fund would not fall below £400 million. Now it will. They promised they’d provide free school breakfasts. But they won’t.

“In fact, I went through their manifesto line by line. There are more education policies that they are reviewing or abandoning than that they’re implementing. They’re binning their manifesto, we are building on ours.”

The charter

According to the charter, the National Education Service will do the following:

1. Be guided by the principle that education has “intrinsic” value in giving all people “access to the common body of knowledge we share, and practical value in allowing all to participate fully in our society”.

2. Provide education that is “free at the point of use, available universally and throughout life”.

3. Provide education “for the public good”. All providers within the National Education Service shall be bound by the principles of the charter.

4. Work alongside the health, sustainability, and industrial policies set by government.

5. Commit to “tackling all barriers to learning”, and providing high-quality education for all.

6. Provide all forms of education, integrating academic, technical and other forms of learning within and outside of educational institutions, and treating all with equal respect.

7. Be structured to “encourage and enhance” cooperation across boundaries and sectors.

8. Be accountable to the public, communities, and parents and children that it serves. Schools, colleges, and other public institutions within the National Education Service “should be rooted in their communities”, with parents and communities empowered, via appropriate democratic means, to “influence change where it is needed and ensure that the education system meets their needs”. The “appropriate democratic authority” will set, monitor and allocate resources, ensuring that they meet the rights, roles, and responsibilities of individuals and institutions.

9. Aspire to the “highest standards of excellence and professionalism”. Educators and all other staff will be “valued as highly-skilled professionals”, and appropriate accountability will be balanced against giving “genuine freedom of judgement and innovation”. The National Education Service shall “draw on evidence and international best practice, and provide appropriate professional development and training”.

10. Have the “utmost regard to the well-being of learners and educators”, and its policies and practices, particularly regarding workload, assessment and inspection will “support the emotional, social and physical well-being of students and staff”.

Document ‘recognises professionalism’

The charter has been welcomed by the National Education Union.

Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s joint general secretary, said the draft document was “a ray of light, illuminating the possibilities for a new education system”.

He said this was particularly welcome “after years in which schools and colleges have experienced a narrow curriculum, a punitive system of accountability and a lowering of educational horizons”.

“It recognises professionalism,” he added. “It avoids the language of blame. It commits to the well-being of education workers and learners. It pledges to integrate education with social and economic policy, so that schools and colleges are no longer expected to carry most of the burden of transforming lives.

“It envisages a system restored to democratic control. These principles could fundamentally change for the better our educational system.”

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