Labour’s new shadow education secretary Lucy Powell has used Schools Week’s fringe at her party’s conference in Brighton to outline her priorities for education.

Teacher recruitment and retention

Issues with the number of teachers leaving the teaching profession and problems recruiting new teachers were mentioned first by Ms Powell at the event.

She said: “We have seen huge numbers of teachers leaving the profession, recruitment numbers are down on what they need to be. This is something that I don’t think the government are even noticing to be honest, let alone doing anything about.

“The government has a lot to answer for in terms of some of those numbers. If you spend your time putting down teachers, moving the goalposts constantly in terms of curriculum and exams, and at the same time effectively cutting pay. I think the era when we could just do down the workforce because they haven’t got anywhere else to go is long gone.”

She described teachers as “very mobile and very desirable employees”, who were “unfortunately” choosing to go elsewhere.

Post-16 funding

Flanked by her newly-appointed shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden, Ms Powell signalled a newfound focus on FE by adding this key area of policy to her top three priorities.

She said: “We have said we would protect the whole education budget. The Tories have said they would just protect schools budgets, and in fact they’re not really doing that. It’s going to put massive pressure on early years and post-16.

“We’ve got a comprehensive spending review coming up, and we need to be pushing on these issues, especially in a world where we are now asking post-16 to take on many more pupils who are having to re-sit English and maths.”

Early years

Ms Powell held the childcare brief during her previous stint in the shadow education team, and she is keen to put her experience of the area to the test.

She said: “Lots of promises were made at the election, that I was pleased about, to see the government move onto Labour’s territory on offering more support for the early years. We actually now need to see those policies turned into reality, and we’re some way off that.”