If there is one underpinning issue in political debate and government from which all others develop, it must surely be education. This is entirely natural, after all, education represents the aspirations of millions of British families who see education as a means of improving the situation of their children and future generations and ensuring that they receive as solid a start to their lives as is possible.
As someone who received an excellent education from a state grammar school, the aspirations that many Britons attach to education has remained in my thoughts. Moreover, throughout my tenure as Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire and Rutland, I have always been aware of how those who have been failed by the education system continue to face systemic difficulties throughout the course of their lives. In extreme examples this can involve resorting to crime that only worsens their situation and damages countless numbers of communities as a result of this failure.
Since being entrusted with governing Britain in 2010, the Conservatives have recognised this tragic state of affairs, and have undertaken solid action to rectify it. Over these 14 years, the reading levels of students entering secondary education have risen to amongst the best in the Western world, while almost 9 in 10 schools across the UK are now rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted. However, there remains more to be done in strengthening their prospects once they have left education and entered the workforce.
One area further reform should focus on is promoting technical education as a means of ensuring young people are in as strong a position as possible when they enter the workforce. Nowhere would this be of more benefit than in the city of Leicester, where the Labour Administration has seen a decline in the local economy that forces Leicester’s school-leavers to subsist on low-paying jobs in the state sector that offer no real prospect for personal development. I commend the government’s proposed introduction of a new Advanced British Standard for all post-16 students which will unify both technical and academic education, thus providing an alternative pathway for school leavers outside of the increasingly saturated university sector. It will also offer the opportunity for private sector investment and student training that the Conservative-led “Made in Leicester” campaign seeks to promote for the city’s economic rejuvenation.
Similarly, not only will this contribute to the individual outcomes of students themselves, but also provide substantial benefits to the UK economy that will enhance its post-Brexit competitiveness. As it stands, A-Level students in England are taught over 1,280 hours across three subjects while technical students receive a mere 1,000 hours. This lags significantly behind the examples of Denmark and Norway where some 1,600 hours of content are delivered to students, thus by unifying both academic and technical frameworks into one qualification, British enterprise can be assured of a higher calibre workforce.
There is naturally further work for the government to do in education, as it is currently doing by addressing the shortages of teachers in a number of subjects via tax free bonuses of £30,000 across the five years of a newly qualified teacher’s career, alongside supporting school-leavers resit the English and Maths qualifications essential to their employability. However, the reforms that have been implemented, reforms which will provide the same meritocratic benefits as I enjoyed during my own education, demonstrate the government’s willingness to act, and place it in an excellent position for further delivery.
Additional reporting by Ryan Walsh
Photo: 6th form student in technical classe By A.I. - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15379974