Labour will reform Ofsted to focus on supporting struggling schools and recruit “thousands of new teachers”, Sir Keir Starmer will pledge today.
At the party’s conference in Brighton, the Labour leader will promise to launch a “national excellence programme”, which would also see teachers and leaders provided with “continuing professional development and leadership skills training”.
Labour has pledged a £347 million teacher recruitment fund to fill “over 6,500 vacancies and skills gaps” across schools. A further £210 million will be spent on a teacher development fund, including an excellence in leadership programme for new heads.
No further details have been announced.
In his speech, Starmer will point to data showing that almost 40 per cent of 19-year-olds did not have a level 3 qualification in 2019-20.
“I want every parent in the country to be able to send their child to a great state school,” Starmer will say.
“On top of that, 40 per cent of young people leave compulsory education without essential qualifications. What does that say about their future? We will not put up with that.
“That is why Labour will launch the most ambitious school improvement plan ever.”
Labour said its reforms would boost the number of outstanding schools in all areas of the country, drive up standards and “enable every child to achieve their full potential”.
The party’s efforts would be funded by ending tax exemptions for private schools, which Starmer re-committed his party to on Sunday. The party made a similar pledge in 2019 under Jeremy Corbyn.
Digital skills to be ‘fourth pillar’ of education
Starmer told delegates that education was “so important I am tempted to say it three times”, harking back to Tony Blair’s mantra.
He said education needed to “do more than just recover”, but be “pointed” towards skills and work.
“Employers in all sectors tell me that they need well-rounded young people. Young people skilled in life. Ready for work. Young people who can communicate and work in a team.”
He said it was “stupid” to allow theatre, drama and music to “collapse” in state schools, and said his party would “focus on practical life skills”, reinstating two weeks of compulsory work experience and guaranteeing “every young person” gets to see a career adviser.
He also warned that young people won’t be ready for work or ready for life “unless they are literate in the technology of the day”.
Fewer than half of British employers believe young people have the right digital skills. We do much worse in computer skills than most of our economic rivals.
That is why Labour will write a curriculum for tomorrow. Reading, writing and arithmetic are the three pillars of any education. We would add a fourth which, sadly, does not begin with R: digital skills.
Starmer also said education could “work by the light of new technology”.
“Machine learning can cater for individual work styles. Artificial intelligence can help tuition, especially for students with special needs. Cloud computing has brought the archive of the best that has been said and done to the handset of every student.
“There is so much possibility and all we have to do is to learn to adapt.”
Starmer also pledged to ensure every school had specialist mental health support. No further details have been provided.