Thanks to our many volunteers, we’re delighted to have made four submissions to Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF) 2020 as a CLP, and we know our members have also been busy. The NPF process is the party’s vital consultation within and outwith the party. Over the next couple of weeks we will post them all, highlighting the personal submissions we’ve been sent.
Our Early Years, Education and Skills submission focussed on schools and was written by our member Laurence Hall, who attends St Barts School, Newbury. You can log in and read the final version here and you can vote for it! We’re posting Laurence’s original unedited response which we so enjoyed as an Executive group. Huge thanks to Laurence, who is one of our youngest members at 16 years old.
Education is always a policy and campaigning priority for the CLP, and must become a long term project, so please get involved. It’s still not too late to make a submission – the deadline was extended to 20 July.
Newbury CLP NPF submission
by Laurence Hall
- What lessons should be learned from, and changes made, to our education system after the crisis?
1.1. One of the most important things that we have learned throughout the coronavirus crisis is that we cannot rely on exams as a sole measure of qualification. For the subjects I currently take, three of them are assessed solely on exams, and the other is 80% assessed based on exams. As this crisis has proven, exams are volatile and there is the potential that they are not permitted to happen for whatever reason.
1.2. As a result of this, we would argue that within the UK curriculum, it is important to re-evaluate the level of coursework within the UK education system in order to safeguard students in the future, by providing them with a greater amount of assessed work that they can complete prior to the exam day, as a safeguard in case public examinations are not able to be taken for whatever reason. Various methods of measuring achievement, will more accurately reflect the diverse skills and talents of our young people.
1.3. A further proposal is the introduction of greater democracy and citizenship education within the education system for students to be a part of. This would have the effect of encouraging greater learning and equipping younger generations with democratic values, as well as educating them about fundamental aspects of their lives through engaging in the democratic process.
1.4. This would likely be best achieved voluntarily through schools but with the introduction of a criteria within Education Inspection based on how far the school promotes democracy and the practice of democracy, which would encourage more schools to pick up elements of democratic education in order to boost their score within the Ofsted inspections.
1.5. Studies show that the implementation of democratic education enhances the motivation to learn and self-esteem for students , as well as their interest in sciences and political theory .
1.6. A further initiative that we would like to propose is the introduction of ‘Political Education’ within the current ‘Personal Development Programme’ subject about how the current UK political system operates, as currently, this is only covered within the Politics course which is typically only available at A-Levels. This would help ensure a higher level of youth involvement within politics and greater education about the political system – a fundamental component of the democratic system.
- How can we ensure that our education institutions are rooted in and accountable to their local communities?
2.1. There is a distinct lack of representation of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups within the education system. In 2018, 85.9% of state school teachers in England were White British , in comparison to only 78.5% of the working age population being White British at the time of the 2011 Census , a number that has likely decreased due to the UK becoming an ever more diverse nation. Moreover, with regards to headteachers, this lack of representation becomes even more apparent, with 96.7% being White British .
2.2. Not only does this lack of representation demonstrate a severe lack of equality within the UK education system, a fundamental issue for a country which should be at the forefront of social liberalism, but it also results in a lowering of the standard of education within the UK as BAME people who are aware of this segregation may lack the confidence that they can safely advance in their careers and instead choose to spend their talents in a different career path, hampering the quality of our education system.
2.3. As a solution to this glaring issue within the UK education system, we would like to see the government encourage more BAME people take up the teaching profession, to establish greater equality and representation within the UK education system. As a longer term aspiration, we would encourage research into the plausibility of the possible introduction of a quota put in place to ensure a representation of BAME teachers and headteachers proportional to the nationwide percentage (roughly 20%) . However, we understand it may not be possible for some schools. Despite this, we believe there should be an investigation of various methods to encourage more BAME teachers into the profession.
- What other services, beyond education itself, are needed to ensure that vulnerable learners get the support they need?
3.1. Vulnerable learners have been hit extremely hard during this pandemic, and within the age of the internet, many of the solutions to allow them to continue learning effectively have taken place online. However, this is reliant on having a fast broadband and good access to a computer, something which many vulnerable people lack.
3.2. Whilst there has been some improvement in distributing broadband to vulnerable families and learners, no such improvement has been made considering distributing laptops and computers to such families. Some schools are able to provide technology from their own stores which has been received from their own funds, however, that is dependent on how much money the school has, and for many primary schools, that is not an option available to them. This is explicitly highlighted in the extended provision private schools have been able to provide for their students in comparison to state funded schools.
3.3. As a result of this, we would propose the introduction of a government subsidy to ensure that each school has a fair reserve of technology to provide, proportional to those considered vulnerable learners within the institution, and a bit spare as a safeguard. This would ensure that vulnerable learners can still receive a high level of education whilst away from school, as a precautionary measure to accommodate circumstances in which they would be required to study from home.
3.4. An argument against this has been the cost analysis as it is likely to be very expensive for the government to commit to the ‘Technology Subsidy’ for schools, however, in the long run, it is likely to bring about economic growth for the country as the quality of labour would improve, both through an improved education for vulnerable learners in the face of another crisis, but also because schools would then be able to reduce the spending on their budget on providing technology, which could then be spent on different classroom resources, or improving the quality of teachers by improving training mechanisms.
- How can our education system support those who are particularly affected by economic disruption, including that caused by coronavirus, and the insecurity and inequality it has revealed?
4.1. An introduction into the education system that we would very much like to see to support those who are particularly affected by economic disruption is for the extension of free school breakfasts for families in the low income bracket to secondary schools, or at least a low price for school breakfasts for households in the low income bracket, due to the extensive cost that these families have to pay for food which could be avoided if their children were able to eat breakfast at school without having to pay, or without having to pay as much.
4.2. We would argue that this is more of a moral dilemma than an economic dilemma, and that this initiative is a necessity within our tolerant and modern state that should have a desire to care for people through such an action.
4.3. However, whilst this may appear to be costly, this would also have the effect of improving a child’s education and thus the quality of the workforce in the long run, which would bolster long run economic growth, thus compensating the cost of the initiative.
- What can we do to provide greater support to those who work in our education system?
5.1. The people who work in education, be it teachers, cleaners or other staff members, are some of the most important people in our country, as a result, it is our government’s duty to ensure that any support is necessary to be provided for those who work in education.
5.2. Within education, there is a distinct lack of internal democracy, despite the importance of democracy and transparency within modern UK politics. As the education system is supposed to establish democratic ideals in the students and teachers, it is unjust to offer little democracy within the system for teachers and other staff members to participate in.
5.3. As a result of this, we propose the introduction of a more democratic education system for the staff members of schools and workers in the education sector. This could take the form of establishing a greater number of elected positions within an educational institution for staff members of said educational institution, or an introduction of a greater amount of voting for decisions within the school.
5.4. This might be implemented voluntarily for schools, but with the introduction of an assessment criteria within the UK’s education inspection that measures the education institution’s level of internal democracy, with the higher the better, receiving a higher overall score – something that schools desire.
5.5. This would have the effect of provoking a greater interest in becoming a teacher within the education sector and greater protections for existing teachers as there is a greater transparency and accountability within the school system, and greater self-determination for teachers within the school decision making body.
 – The ‘Hannam Report’ 2001, http://alternativestoschool.com/pdfs/The%20Hannam%20Report.pdf
 – ‘Adolescent’s Declining Motivation to Learn Science: Or not?’ 2010, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/tea.20398
, , ,  – ‘School Teacher Workforce’, 2020 https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/workforce-and-business/workforce-diversity/school-teacher-workforce/latest