Bridget Phillipson has admitted “there is much more” a Labour government would need to do in education – but admitted she can’t make more promises until the economy is growing again.
Speaking at Labour conference this evening, the shadow education secretary said the party had committed to a range of measures using the estimated more than £1 billion due to be raised from taxing private schools if Labour won the next election.
She said a Labour government “always invests in education”, but the challenge is an “economy on its knees”.
She admitted: “I completely acknowledge that there is much more that we would need to do, and much more I would want to do, but that’s why it’s absolutely crucial we get the economy growing – it makes it a lot easier to have that conversation.”
Relationship reset will boost recruitment
One of the party’s key promises is to recruit 6,500 more teachers.
Government has missed its trainee secondary teacher recruitment target for nine of the past ten years.
Phillipson said the 6,500 figure was based on what the party deemed affordable with the money it will raise from charging private schools VAT.
But when asked how the party would deliver its promise, Phillipson could only say her officials are looking at how they can make teaching “a more attractive place to be … that’s the starting point”.
She added it also “has to be fundamentally that reset of the relationship that I was talking about [between government and the sector] and the message that government can send about the value of education, and that teachers have a role to play in shaping that national mission now.”
She said government had “for too long undervalued and under appreciated the work that has been done by people right across our schools. I’m determined that will change.”
She said this “had to be done on the basis of partnership, mutual respect and that we value and prize education putting it at the heart of our national life”.
She admitted this was “not the entire answer” but “we have to start somewhere”.
Keegan is ‘attack as factory’ for Labour
Phillipson also took a swipe at Gillian Keegan, calling her opposite number a “one-woman attack ad factor for the Labour party’.
Keegan has recently made a number of gaffes including claiming children preferred learning in temporary classroom and being caught off camera saying “everyone else sat on their arse” over the RAAC crisis.
Just last week, she ordered an investigation after her department miscalculated next year’s school funding budget to the tune of £370 million.
Phillipson joked: “She’s making such a contribution to the Labour cause I’m wondering if our general secretary should give her honour memberships.”