Opening doors to a learning society (1994)

This policy statement on education was published by the Labour Party for consideration at the party's annual conference in 1994, shortly after Tony Blair had been elected leader of the party. No author is named, but it was largely the work of Anne Taylor, then shadow education secretary. She was regarded by the new leadership as 'Old Labour' and was soon replaced by David Blunkett.

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various chapters:

Introduction
Early learning
Schools make all the difference
Effective learning
Meeting individual needs: inclusive education
Towards lifetime learning
Accountability and partnership
Conclusion

I have corrected a handful of printing errors.

I have not attempted to reproduce the two-column layout of the printed version, which would be inconvenient on a computer screen. Otherwise, the formatting of the text (bold, italics, centred etc) is a reasonably accurate representation of the printed version, but the pages presented here are not exact facsimiles of the original: the font (Times, Arial etc) and size of print - and therefore the number of words to a line and lines to a page - are determined by the settings you have chosen for your web browser. However, the page breaks are correct. In other words, if something is shown here as being on, say, page 20, you can be sure it appeared on page 20 in the original.

Opening doors to a learning society was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 1 July 2013.


Opening doors to a learning society (1994)

A policy statement on education

ISBN 0 86117 227 2

London: Labour Party 1994


[cover]


[page 2 (unnumbered)]

Contents

Introduction3

Early learning
6

Schools make all the difference
9

Effective learning
14

Meeting individual needs: inclusive education
19

Towards lifetime learning
22

Accountability and partnership
27

Conclusion
31





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Introduction

The 21st century will be rich with possibilities. We stand at the threshold of a society in which everybody will have the chance to learn and achieve as never before. A whole series of changes - economic, technological and cultural - has presented us with the opportunity of building a genuinely learning society - a society in which all individuals can fulfil their potential as active citizens in a prosperous, civilised, and caring community.

A learning society is one that continually extends the skills and knowledge of all its people; is one in which education has become a life-long process of the discovery and development of the talents of each and every individual; is one in which the education system is dynamic and rewarding, capable of providing all the opportunities for understanding and achievement that young people and adults will need in the 21st century.

Britain's international competitors have long recognised that, in the knowledge-based economies of the modern world, education forms the basis of national wealth in much the same way that physical resources did in the past. Nations well positioned for the future - Japan, Germany, the Scandinavian countries - have in common excellent education systems for all young people, a highly skilled workforce and good retraining systems. In these countries it is recognised that education is the key to personal fulfilment for the individual, to economic success for the nation, and to the creation of a more just and cohesive society.

The Labour Party believes that Britain can also aspire to excellence. Our task is to persuade the whole of British society that we can no longer tolerate mediocrity and decline. We must recognise that our national wealth lies in the talents of us all, and that the exploration and development of those talents should be a national crusade.

This is the challenge of a new era: to provide high quality education for all our citizens. That will be the central ambition of the next Labour government. Of course, we recognise that we must put a stop to the bewildering range of experiments currently being carried out on the nation's children and the institutions which serve them. The chopping and changing must certainly cease. But that cannot mean a static system; however fatigued we are with the pace of change, we cannot simply freeze our education system where it is now. There must be change - constructive change, based on consent.

This document is the outcome of a wide-ranging and extensive consultative exercise by the Labour Party on education issues. It sets out our vision for education in a learning society, and outlines our objectives and priorities in major areas of education policy.

Labour's vision for education

Labour's vision is of an educated democracy in which good education ceases to be restricted as a competitive prize at arbitrary points throughout life but becomes the very basis for economic, political, and cultural success.

To achieve this vision we must start to advance the importance of education. Government cannot do this alone. What it must do is provide inspiration and leadership. As a society we must understand that education is not just about learning facts and passing tests, it is about empowering individuals. It is the foundation of a healthy democracy, and central to overcoming the notion that citizens are no more than passive consumers.

Individuals need to be empowered to make their own decisions about their own lives. This requires not only a broad and balanced education but, even more importantly, that individuals are equipped with the self-confidence and self-esteem necessary for full participation in the democratic life of this country and of the European Union of which it is a part.

Our education system must also respond to the challenges of technological change and the development of new communications infrastructures. Across the globe, governments are exploring how best to exploit the enormous educational potential of technological


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developments. In the United States, the Clinton administration has embarked on a high profile campaign to connect every classroom in every school to the new information superhighways by the year 2000. It has placed at the top of the policy agenda the goal of ensuring equitable and life-long access to learning technologies for all Americans.

A Labour government will require the telecommunications industry to provide a universal service for the connection of subscribers to the new national communications network. We will pursue the long-term aim of offering every child and adult in the country access to the educational benefits that this network can provide. We will promote the development of new, imaginative methods of delivering educational services and the use of collaborative learning opportunities provided by new technologies. In addition, we will work to promote the cost-effective use of technology in schools, stimulate educational access to libraries and databases, and ensure that schools receive equal treatment in the provision of resources for information technology education.

The Labour Party believes that everyone has an entitlement to a high-quality, life-long education. We also recognise that without this entitlement individuals will be unable to be part of the multi-skilled, creative, and adaptable workforce we will need in the 21st century. We are convinced that a new framework is required in the education services of this country: a new understanding of the purposes of education and new mechanisms for constructive dialogue and change.

A British Association for the Advancement of Education

At present there is no independent body to articulate the long-term, non-sectional interests of education, across all its sectors. The time has come to look to the establishment of such a body, one endowed with the status of a national or royal academy of scholarship. This should not be a quango but on a par with, for example, the RSA or the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Labour proposes that discussions take place with interested parties with a view to establishing a British Association for the Advancement of Education. The creation of such a body, while not able to override the wishes of Parliament, would provide a non-partisan arena for the promotion of education.

Membership could come from any group involved in education, such as a national parents' voice, a national governors' forum, teachers, commerce and industry, and representatives from the fields of early years, special needs, HE, and FE.

This body would decide its own terms of reference but we envisage that it would make an annual or biennial report to the Secretary of State or to the Select Committee on Education.

The association could collate research, promote good practice, increase awareness of international best practice in education, and act as an advocate for the role of education in our national life.

The importance of education for individuals and society is such that a new initiative on this scale is needed. We must make the British education system second to none. The establishment of an association would help achieve this objective.

Principles for education policy making

Labour asserts five key principles guiding education policy:

Access for all

Education should be about opening doors and keeping them open as wide as possible for as long as possible. At the moment too much of educational provision is concerned with excluding people and providing a prize for the few. We reject this approach. Education is central to personal fulfilment and satisfaction. It is the key means by which individuals fulfil their ambitions, improve their own economic and social wellbeing, and put their talents and capacities at the service of society.

Quality and equity

Every individual, at every stage of the learning process, deserves a high quality education. This depends on both the individual and the educational institution having high aspirations, high expectations, and high levels of motivation. The existence of widespread underachievement in Britain today is an indictment of the educational 'reforms' of the last 15 years. We must expect the best from our children and students, and we must give them the best in return. To achieve this there must be a fair distribution of resources, countering disadvantage not reinforcing privilege.

Priority in education provision must be assessed according to need. That is why we will put such great emphasis on nursery education. Early learning not only gives all youngsters the best start in education but strengthens social


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cohesion and the sense of community so lacking in many areas.

Our current system is based on low expectations and the assumption that the vast majority lack ability. Labour believes that quality education demands comprehensive provision for all stages, and rejects any system in which a few are selected at the expense of the vast majority.

Continuity

Labour believes we need a system of education that extends horizons, increases expectations and enhances the aspirations of each person. Education is a life-long process and it should not be terminated at arbitrary points. Individuals must be able to continue in, and return to, a flexible system of education over the course of their lives. This will become increasingly important in the 21st century as changes in work patterns require greater flexibility and changes in life expectancy increase learning in retirement.

Accountability

Education services belong to the whole community, and until recently it had always been accepted that they were accountable to the whole community. Recent legislation, however, has concentrated power in the hands of the Secretary of State and a proliferation of unelected, unaccountable quangos. Education is too important for decisions to be made on this basis. There must be proper public scrutiny of education spending and clarity of responsibility for policy decisions. Everyone must feel they have a stake in the system. Without that sense of ownership we will not extend the aspirations and achievements of all our citizens.

Partnership

A civilised society cannot operate when its education system is undermined by confrontation. Policies should be determined after consultation and decision making should be shared. Central government should create the framework for education whilst the local delivery of services must be the responsibility of those who are democratically and professionally accountable. Professionals must be recognised as such. Parents must be actively involved in their children's educational lives. Last, but not least, the wishes and needs of pupils themselves must be recognised and respected, and they must be central to this partnership. Confrontation must be replaced by co-operation.




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Early learning

  • The first priority of a Labour Secretary of State for Education will be a dramatic extension of nursery education.
  • Labour's key objective is to ensure that all 3 and 4 year olds whose parents want it have access to quality nursery education, co-ordinated with quality childcare provision on a flexible basis to meet children's needs and parents' circumstances.
  • A Labour government will set targets for the provision of nursery education for all 3 and 4 year olds whose parents want it.
  • We aim to make such progress, consistent with the provision of quality teachers and suitable buildings, and working with local education authorities, that we can establish nursery education as a right for each 3 and 4 year old.
  • Each local education authority will have restored to it the role in the provision of nursery education outlined by the 1944 Education Act.
  • A Labour government will review staffing ratios so as to provide appropriate staffing for the education of 4 and 5 year old children.
  • Labour will, after consultation, develop a curriculum entitlement for 3 and 4 year old children which will concentrate on language development as a priority.
  • Each local education authority should identify special educational needs (SEN) coordinators for early years provision.
  • Labour will maintain the professional status of early years teachers and review ancillary qualifications. Labour will give particular encouragement to promoting parental involvement in early years education.
  • Teacher education and training will be reviewed to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified nursery teachers.
The case for nursery education is now firmly established. No less than 50 per cent of educational development takes place in the first five years of life. Research evidence on the long-term benefits of nursery education shows the waste of human potential caused by the neglect of under-fives' education. Early childhood education is of great benefit to children, their families, and society at large.

Recent authoritative reports from the National Commission for Education and the Royal Society of Arts and the National Foundation for Educational Research have both provided conclusive evidence of the outstanding value of quality nursery education. Their studies show that, while all children benefit, the provision of nursery education is of particular importance to children from disadvantaged backgrounds and is,


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therefore, vital in making a reality of equal opportunities.

These conclusions are supported by another recent study of the value of early years education undertaken in the United States. The study showed that those children who experienced a pre-school programme did better in school, stayed longer in school, and were more likely to continue into higher education; more of them gained jobs and fewer were involved in delinquent behaviour; the girls among them had fewer teenage pregnancies.

Other academic studies have shown that children who have experienced pre-school education achieved higher Standard Assessment Test scores at Key Stage One, especially in mathematics.

Labour's key objective is to ensure that all three and four year olds whose parents want it have access to quality nursery education, coordinated with quality childcare provision on a flexible basis to meet children's needs and parents' circumstances. Each local education authority will have restored to it the role in the provision of nursery provision outlined by the 1944 Education Act.

We are opposed to suggestions that the age for entering school should be lowered simply to overcome the shortage of nursery provision. A Labour government will review staffing ratios for 4 and 5 year olds in school to provide appropriate staffing for the education of young children. Labour recognises that the requirements of 4 year olds are very different from those of 5 year olds with regard to teaching methods, and the space and equipment required for learning.

Labour will, after consultation, develop a curriculum entitlement for 3 and 4 year old children that will concentrate on language development as a priority.

Early years education provides an excellent opportunity to identify, at the earliest possible moment, children who have special educational needs. The earlier such needs are identified, the more likely it is that they will be met in an educationally proficient and cost-effective way. Nursery education also provides a positive opportunity for identifying children with developmental delays in linguistic and cognitive skills as well as difficulties in emotional and social development. We believe therefore that each local education authority should identify special educational needs (SEN) co-ordinators for early years provision.

It is vital that those responsible for early years education have appropriate qualifications. At the same time we must seek to harmonise the different training arrangements and qualifications that currently exist for nursery nurses, playgroup workers, and others in the field of childcare, ensuring much greater transferability between these fields. We must also encourage more adults to obtain relevant qualifications.

Labour will maintain the professional status of early years teachers and review ancillary qualifications.

Nursery education ensures that children and parents are introduced to a positive learning environment at the earliest opportunity. Parents of very young children naturally become a part of their educative process. So the early years represent a much easier time to involve parents in the education of their children. The more extensive early years provision in many continental countries is a key factor behind the greater involvement of parents in those countries in their children's education.

There can be no doubt that nursery education is the best start that we can give our children, and that will be our priority. But at this time of increasing social disintegration, nursery education also allows us to give additional forms of support, and education on parenting, to today's parents. Many of today's parents are young, some are single, and many live at a distance from networks of family support. These circumstances make parenting more difficult.

Already many nursery units extend their provision to ensure that other agencies and groups can create a network of support mechanisms among parents. There is more need than ever, not only for nursery education to be available to all the 3 and 4 year olds whose parents want it, but for nursery education to provide a base for help and support with parenting. A wide range of people, from voluntary groups to health visitors, should be accessible to parents. It is clear that, although there is a lot of support for new parents in the early months following the birth of a child, there is then a great gap of external support until the child starts school.

Labour believes that a child's profile, starting with its early days health record, should be extended to form part of an ongoing assessment of the development of each child, and should be accessible to those with responsibility for services to the child and parents. It could be held by parents as well as a lead agency, and should include such vital factors as early learning developments.

Labour will give particular encouragement to promoting parental involvement in early years education.

It is difficult to consider pre-school provision separately from other childcare provision for children under five. Ideally all childcare provision should have an educational content however


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informal it may appear to be. At the moment, early years provision is diverse, of variable quality and involves statutory, voluntary, and private agencies. It includes nursery education, reception classes, day nurseries, playgroups, and childminders. All can have a valuable role.

Any extension of nursery education is of little use to children or their parents unless it is accompanied by practical solutions to problems, such as lack of co-ordination of those with responsibility for under-fives care and lack of effective public transport. The prevailing pattern of provision, typically 2½ hours in a nursery class, is often totally impractical for many parents. Nursery education has to be integrated into forms of childcare. Here there is a clear need for comprehensive provision and better co-ordination of voluntary and statutory sectors. We want to draw on the experiences of imaginative and innovative schemes established in some rural areas.

The problems of fragmented provision worsen when responsibility for the management of services for young children is split between different government departments and local authority departments. This creates confusion when new services are being initiated. Employers and independent providers often do not know whom to ask for advice, or which regulations they must follow.

All local authorities should designate a lead department to co-ordinate childcare provision between the different providers and agencies: public, private, and voluntary.

Labour will undertake a national review and assessment of childcare need as a matter of urgency, with a view to developing specific childcare targets, and ensure proper links with early years education provision.




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Schools make all the difference

  • Labour upholds the comprehensive principle that each and every child is entitled to the best education we can provide. We will ensure that this principle is extended in practice.
  • 80 per cent of our young people should be able to achieve the equivalent of the present GCSE A-C in core subjects as an initial target.
  • We hold that class size is critical, and aim to improve the teacher/pupil ratio in classrooms.
  • Attention will be given to the need for the primary school day to be organised to allow teachers sufficient time for preparation, while also reducing their administrative burden.
  • Labour will ensure that written home/school contracts are developed for every pupil within the framework of the home/school association.
  • Labour will establish an inquiry into measuring school effectiveness and consult with parents, governors, teachers, and others to ensure that any such system enjoys the full confidence of all.
  • Labour will ensure that every parent has the right under the terms of a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about the performance of local schools and local education authorities.
  • Labour will develop increasing use of school facilities out of school hours both by young people and adults for a wide range of purposes including leisure, education, and community use.
Labour wants an education system that is second to none, and will aim high for our children so that young people in Britain reach the standards of their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere. John Major has said that 15 per cent of our young people get an education that is as good as anywhere in the world. He then admitted the rest do not. That is simply not good enough for those individuals, or for our society's well-being. Our children deserve better, and we must raise aspirations and expectations.

Schools are critical to maximising the achievements of young people, not just to meeting but to extending their aspirations in every sphere, from academic work to drama, music, and sporting activities. They provide the basis for all that follows, as young people progress to independent learning, making full use of their cognitive skills. All young people must learn how to learn and how to apply their skills. Labour upholds the comprehensive principle that each and every child is entitled to the best education


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we can provide.

Labour's strategy for schools is to maximise the potential of our young people and to counter the enormous amount of underachievement. We will promote national targets of achievement comparable with the best in Europe and the rest of the world. At least 80 per cent of our young people should be able to achieve the equivalent of the present GCSE A-C in core subjects as an initial target. We must tackle not only the problem of underachievement but also the lack of expectations that often limits the opportunities available to children.

There is considerable agreement about what makes a good school. It is one in which teaching and learning take place in an atmosphere dominated by the attainment of success, rather than the containment of failure - one in which pupils are expected to have high educational and behavioural standards, and in which they accept their share of responsibility for their own learning and development.

A successful school requires a positive and disciplined environment conducive to learning, which in turn requires high quality, well-trained, and confident teachers, operating in safe, well maintained buildings, with appropriate class sizes.

Schools must develop strong corporate identities founded on and supported by cooperative and purposeful leadership. Schools must recognise and value the vital contribution to the work of the team in a school made by all staff, teachers and support staff. The contributions made by large numbers of staff involved in caretaking, cleaning, schools meals provision, maintenance, secretarial work, administration, care and welfare, and technical support are all too often undervalued. Their motivation and involvement is important in any school.

A good school will also recognise the special needs of all children, such as those with learning difficulties, those whose first language is not English, those with high ability, those with physical disabilities or the range of behavioural and personal problems that can later drive children away from learning in secondary school and into the culture of truancy and crime.

Schools should also have a clear partnership with parents and a strong community dimension. It is important that schools are encouraged to play a key role in the life of the community. If they are open and accessible to the community everyone will have a greater stake in the school and in the achievement of its children. Businesses have much to contribute to education in helping young people extend their experience of the world outside school. Schools must grasp the opportunities provided by developing links with local businesses whilst maintaining the integrity of their educational objectives. This is especially urgent in areas overwhelmed by unemployment, poverty and crime, where family and community links are splintering and where expectations are at their very lowest. The scope for partnerships between schools and business and industry must be extended, building on the existing good practice in many areas.

The more positive the ethos of any individual school, the more likely it is that parents and the local community will identify with its aims and provide the support crucial to achieving them. It is important that the ethos of the school is reflected in the full range of activity of the school, not just inside the classroom but at other important times such as lunch breaks.

The provision of school meals is a vital part of the school day. A Labour government will restore updated nutritional standards and ensure that teaching about healthy eating plays a part in every child's education.

Motivation and aspirations

Good schools require a disciplined environment. All parents and pupils want classrooms that are orderly and well-structured. Parents and pupils want a clear framework that is conducive to learning. All good educational practice, in state and in private schools, recognises that this is best achieved by ensuring as much self-discipline as possible. The quality of relationships in the classroom is critical to improving motivation and in raising the quality of education for all pupils.

Education is a voluntary process. People have to want to learn and to understand the importance of learning. Motivation is the single most important factor in education. We cannot expect teachers successfully to motivate students to work for an education if other parts of society undermine this role.

The increasing number of children excluded from schools and the rise in reported cases of bullying have led to widespread anxiety that some young people are being denied the right to any education at all. The different rates of exclusion in different areas reflect the different degrees of tolerance and support.

It is clear from a wide range of research that truancy primarily occurs when schools cease to be places where children and young people feel there is any purpose in staying. Frequently, the onset of truanting in younger children is caused by problems at home. This should be dealt with sensitively as soon as the problem is recognised.

Labour will ensure that schools have a policy for dealing with the causes of truancy as well as for dealing with truants themselves. In combating truancy or behavioural problems the early and sustained co-operation of parents is vital. The


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school ethos should encourage a low toleration of truancy, and school authorities should learn from best practice elsewhere - taking responsibility to ensure that local agencies co-operate on these issues. Raising the level of motivation of pupils has to be one of the main objectives of a good school. Schools must ensure that the delivery of the whole school curriculum, and any extra curricular activity, interests and motivates pupils.

Primary school education is of critical importance as the foundation of all that follows. It must enable children to be confident communicators and readers, and to have good numeracy skills and an interest in and awareness of the world around them. In recent years class sizes have increased and teachers have been forced to spend too much time on administrative work. This is a problem in all sectors but particularly at primary level. Parents want teachers to teach, not to spend their time on too many administrative tasks.

We hold that class size is critical, and aim to improve the teacher/pupil ratio in classrooms, giving priority to primary class size. We want to see the appropriate use of trained classroom assistants.

Labour believes that volunteers - especially parents - under the direction of class teachers, can provide supportive help in the classroom and should be encouraged to do so. Obviously, volunteers should not be used to replace paid staff or take on inappropriate tasks.

It is important that attention is given to the need for the school day to be organised to allow teachers sufficient non-teaching time for preparation of lessons and other non-contact work. This is particularly important at primary level where the absence of non-contact time can be a barrier to the effective use of teachers' time in the classroom. Administrative assistance should be available so that teachers can maximise their time with children.

Many parents worry about the transition made by their children from primary to secondary school, particularly when the secondary school is relatively large.

Children can often become intimidated and lost in a new, large-scale setting. Labour maintains that the internal organisation of all schools, and particularly of large secondary schools, is an important determinant of the motivation of children and of their capacity to respond positively to the learning experience. Induction sessions for new year groups and their parents should be used as a means of easing the transition from primary to secondary schools.

Children need pastoral support as well as quality education. 'Human scale' internal organisation in schools can ensure each child has sufficient contact with a teacher responsible for his or her individual development. Labour believes that if more attention was paid to this issue the motivation of children could be maximised and behavioural problems could be dealt with swiftly.

Parental rights and responsibilities

Labour affirms that parental involvement with schools is essential to achieving the best for children. It is crucial that we understand the importance of this partnership at individual and collective levels.

The collective voice of parents clearly needs to be heard on such matters as children's learning, progress and achievement, matters related to curriculum, assessment, recording, teacher methods, behaviour in schools, and school organisation.

One of the main ways of involving parents and developing a partnership is to develop home/school associations. It is not satisfactory that at the present time headteachers can prevent these operating. A home/school association would be open to all parents, teachers and representative pupils, and be part of a new legislative framework for homes and schools. It would operate as a two-way channel for the exchange of information between teachers and parents.

Labour will ensure that written home/school contracts are developed for every pupil within the framework of the home/school association. These will assist parental involvement in the learning process, combat truancy, and develop an ethos of pupils belonging in schools.

Pupils and parents need to understand how important it is that parents support children in learning at home and view home as part of their children's learning environment. Homework represents one of the most important educational interactions between school and home. The home/school contract must underline the expectation that school and home have of each other in supporting education at home. Schools must expect that parents will play their role in ensuring that homework is carried out - and parents must know that they will be given a clear indication of what homework is expected and how quickly it will be marked. Some schools have developed a homework diary that both home and school have to sign to provide evidence that they know that it is being carried out.

There will be some homes that will need assistance in providing a quiet space for children to carry out homework - some schools have sought to tackle this difficulty by setting up homework clubs and support groups. Many more need to do so.

Labour's commitment to freedom of


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information across the range of policy areas has been detailed elsewhere, but nowhere is the right of access to information more important than in the field of education. Labour will ensure that every parent has the right under the terms of a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act to obtain information regarding the performance of local schools and local education authorities, school policies across a range of issues - including uniform, homework, discipline, internal pastoral arrangements, sporting and library facilities and education extra arrangements - and the achievements of their own children.

Labour will establish an inquiry into measuring school effectiveness and consult with parents, governors, teachers, and others to ensure that any such system enjoys the full confidence of all.

Children's rights: every child matters

Schools must develop the talents of all children to the full and work to remove barriers to equal opportunities. This means that schools must take on board issues of ethnicity and sex. The issue of either single sex schools or single sex teaching in mixed schools is one that creates very important debates among parents and teachers. Clearly many parents want to have the opportunity of sending their girls to single sex schools, but many more want to send their boys to mixed schools. There is no way around these contradictions of choice. The Labour Party does not consider it appropriate to pre-judge a full and informed public debate on these issues. We must encourage local debates and local initiatives where appropriate.

At the moment there is an unacceptable spread of attainment and underachievement in different cultures. All individuals should be respected and treated equally; different cultures must be treated with respect and given freedom of expression. Racial discrimination and religious prejudice have no place in a modern education system. Local authorities should draw up a statement of aims on multi-cultural education.

Clearly, the education system serves some communities better than others. As a nation we cannot afford the social and economic consequences of the inequalities that spring from that failure to meet the educational needs of all communities. These inequalities need to be understood and addressed within all parts of the education system.

There are also many cases where parents from different minority ethnic backgrounds find it difficult to make their voices heard in their children's schooling. It is vital that schools are open to different cultural views about the nature of education. If we fail to listen to these different voices we will be losing a major national resource, as well as creating social problems for the future.

All children have a right to be educated in a safe environment. Tough measures are required to deal with the problem of violence and bullying and to prevent racial attacks and harassment in our schools.

Schools in the community

Schools must become integral parts of the communities in which they are based. A school operates best when those in it have local roots and feel that their efforts and commitments are shared by those outside the school. We must ensure that the wider community recognises its responsibilities to a school and vice versa. Labour will look at the present difficulties of dual use facilities with a view to maximising the benefits to schools and local communities.

Schools are one of the greatest resources for a local community, but for the most part they are under-utilised. They belong to the community; they do not belong to one set of governors, to one generation of parents, to one local group of councillors, or to one political party or Secretary of State for Education.

The school must be used more effectively than before. This starts with the school's buildings and playing areas. In many localities, schools are the biggest public buildings, and playgrounds and sports fields are the largest spaces. The possibilities for schools to become more fully utilised as a community resource are legion. Schemes such as the Coventry Sports Training Project, bringing together school and community programmes to advance active lifestyles, will be promoted.

Every school must become a resource for the local community, providing a focal point for activity throughout the week, during evenings and at weekends. As a result, the 'local school' will become and remain vital to community activity. There are many, but not enough, examples of this happening at least in part already.

Pre-school, after-school, and vacation activities need to be extended, building on existing best practice. LEAs and educational charities such as Education Extra and other voluntary groups have provided initial assistance and been able to develop care facilities using school buildings, care that is of immense value to parents and children. Care clubs may include the provision, where appropriate, of meals with an adequate standard of nourishment. There is a great deal of scope for giving much greater access not only to school facilities but also to extra curricular educational experiences by developing the approach successfully adopted in many areas. This can have clear benefits for children in


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stimulating a wide range of interests or giving support to work done at school. It can also be of immense help to working parents needing a limited amount of quality child care provision.

Labour will increase use of school facilities out of school hours both by young people and adults for a wide range of purposes, including leisure, education, and community use. Local businesses and industry also need to see schools as local resources and to be active partners in making young people more aware of the outside world, as well as providing work experience opportunities.

While all schools should form a focus for their community, in rural areas they play a particular role as the core of the community. Indeed, for many villages the loss of the school marks the end of the village as a viable living community. Labour recognises the vital role of schools in rural areas.





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Effective learning

  • Labour will further the process of replacing the prescriptive national syllabus with a framework national curriculum that applies to all schools.
  • Labour will further the process of replacing overburdensome and educationally flawed tests with assessment procedures that have the confidence of parents and teachers alike.
  • Labour favours better reporting to the parents of each child, with the setting of individual targets for each child to be agreed between school, parent and the child.
  • Labour will highlight the importance of communication and literacy skills as well as the need for more research on the development of numeracy skills.
  • Labour will develop a coherent 14-19 curriculum.
  • Labour will play a full part in Europe by participating in initiatives such as the Socrates programme which assists children with learning a foreign language.
  • Labour will guarantee that teaching remains a graduate-entry profession.
  • Labour will abolish the Teacher Training Agency and restore the partnership of schools and higher education institutions in the provision of initial teacher education.
  • Labour will put in place a General Teaching Council to recognise and promote the professional status of teaching.
  • Labour will introduce a National Core Curriculum for Teacher Education after consultation with interested parties. This will help ensure that the highest standards of teachers' education are maintained.
  • Labour will develop a framework for the professional development of all teachers.
  • Labour will establish a national registration scheme of accreditation and inspection for outdoor adventure centres.
  • Labour will act to improve significantly the training of teachers to meet the special educational needs of children.
  • Labour will establish a supportive induction year, providing mentors for new teachers, and introducing new mechanisms for improving quality at the earliest stages of teachers' careers in line with best practice.

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The curriculum

At the heart of effective learning and teaching is the quality of the curriculum.

The Labour Party has long supported the need for a national curriculum, and welcomed its introduction. But we opposed vigorously the introduction in 1987 of a 10-subject national syllabus, which was prescriptive, and had no agreed principles or objectives.

All pupils have an entitlement to a coherently structured and comprehensive, high quality education. This requires a curriculum that offers an appropriate framework for study and not a prescription of every detail of what is to be learned. It must offer challenging opportunities to all and be a right for all, with no exclusion on grounds of class, race, sex, disability, or special need. The curriculum should support the physical, social and intellectual development of the child through cross-curricular teaching and specific subject teaching as appropriate.

A national curriculum must ensure that children are equipped with the core skills that are essential to their later learning, and provide a broad and balanced education for each child. The pressures that have led to a narrowing of the curriculum and the school experience of our young people are extremely worrying. The demands of the prescriptive curriculum and cutbacks in local authority services mean that children today are not always able to enjoy the breadth of experience to which they are entitled. The principle of a broad and balanced curriculum has always been supported by Labour and remains our objective throughout the age range. The national curriculum should encourage a critical understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship, of national and international relationships, of social, political, and economic arrangements and of parenting, while not becoming an instrument of indoctrination. It should not be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Environmental education is essential for all young people, but has been threatened by the prescriptive nature of the government's curriculum.

Labour will further the process of replacing the prescriptive national syllabus with a framework national curriculum that clearly recognises the different purposes of compulsory education and which values local flexibility and the professional discretion of teachers. It will apply to all schools, including those in the independent sector.

Widening opportunities

One of the results of the government's prescriptive approach to the curriculum is to restrict the ability of schools to carry out vital local initiatives. The constant bombardment with national changes in the whole curriculum makes any local development very hard indeed. Yet the fact that the scope for local variation in the curriculum has been recognised in the field of religious education means that it could also be recognised in other areas such as sport, music, and drama, as well as local history and geography studies.

We do not wish to impose unrealistic requirements on schools but we do wish to encourage all types of school sport, both competitive and non-competitive, and to find ways of helping schools develop their programmes such as those promoted by the Sports Council. Given the pressure on school timetables we want to promote the increased use by local community groups of the sporting facilities of all schools. Better co-ordination could increase after-school sporting activity, bringing benefits to everyone involved and providing children with more access to organised sport.

Outdoor education can benefit children and extend self-confidence, self-esteem and mutual respect, but recent tragedies have highlighted the need for greater protection of children on such courses.

Labour will establish a national registration scheme of accreditation and inspection for outdoor adventure centres to ensure that instructors are properly qualified and safety procedures strictly observed.

The straitjacket of the national curriculum has made it more difficult to implement important innovations such as the introduction of the teaching of foreign languages in primary schools. This is regrettable, since all experience suggests that the earlier young people begin to learn a foreign language, the easier it is for them and the more fluent they become. If our children are to reach their full potential, and we are to play our full part in Europe and the world, it must become the norm that all children speak at least one foreign language from an early age.

Labour will ensure that the education system serves all our communities equally. We will promote schemes for language teaching in primary schools. For those who speak English as a second language, proper support must be given at the earliest stage so that their competence in English is maximised.


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Section 11 projects provide for teachers working with ethnic minority pupils in order to raise their achievement levels and to afford them full access to the National Curriculum. The government's cuts in Section 11 funding demonstrate its disregard for the education rights of ethnic minorities and are storing up problems for the future.

The Single Regeneration Budget (SRB), into which around half of Section 11 funding is to be subsumed, will not provide an appropriate mechanism for assessing and meeting the language support needs of ethnic minorities, since it draws together a disparate number of budgets from many government departments and is primarily a temporary measure. Section 11 cuts will be deeper than expected as a result.

Our attention to communicative competence in the early years curriculum is an essential measure in the fight against adult illiteracy. Labour is concerned that an increasing number of very young children are reported to have communication difficulties that inhibit their acquisition of literacy skills. It is appalling that adult illiteracy is such a significant problem as we approach the 21st century. Labour believes that we should be acting now to achieve the target of the 99 by 99 campaign - 99 per cent of school children literate by 1999. This will not happen through the present curriculum and testing arrangements without considerable further effort. The problem is two fold. We need to put better mechanisms in place to identify and support children with reading difficulties. This ideally requires pre-school identification, and early parental involvement. The problem of children who are currently in school and not competent readers will be addressed by ensuring that all schools offer Reading Recovery or comparable programmes. Labour also believes that there is a need for more development and research on problems surrounding children and young people acquiring and retaining communication and numeracy skills.

Assessing children

Labour will ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for the assessment and testing of children on an ongoing basis.

Labour will further the process of replacing current overburdensome and educationally unsound tests with assessment procedures that have the confidence of parents and teachers alike. Assessment must have a clear, diagnostic, and supportive role, and be used to reinforce appropriate teaching by schools and parents.

The government has failed to ensure that current assessment procedures are suitable for the practice of the classroom itself. Labour believes that there is a need for genuine consultation on appropriate external assessment methods to ensure that ongoing teacher assessment, which is a feature of all quality education and takes place on a daily basis, is underpinned by objective validation.

We believe that the provision of a bank of nationally validated tests could provide this.

Parents need to know how a child is progressing both in terms of the usual range of achievement for the age group of the child and in terms of the child's own individual potential.

School reports should provide information to parents on the achievement levels of their children not only in relation to the range of attainment at any particular age but also with regard to the potential level of achievement of each individual child. This will allow reports to reflect the real achievements of children, be they low achievers who are working hard or high flyers who are in fact coasting. In this way it is possible to establish targets for each individual child and young person.

It is of crucial importance that parents know not only the educational attainments of their children but whether each child is reaching his or her full potential. We favour better reporting to individual parents, with individual targets set for each child to be agreed between school, parent, and the child, in order to raise aspirations and expectations as well as achievements.

Providing the best: high quality teaching

If we are to expect the best from our children, then we must provide the best for them, and that requires high quality teachers. It is our duty to attract people of the highest calibre to the teaching profession and ensure that they remain motivated and supported throughout their careers.

A Labour government will guarantee that teaching remains a graduate-entry profession. Initial teacher education must also continue to consist of a balance between classroom-based practical experience and a theoretical understanding of the processes of learning gained in higher education institutions. Recent legislation has sought to disrupt this essential balance and to deprive higher education of its important role in the provision of initial teacher education. We believe that this represents a dangerous threat to the quality of newly-trained teachers, to the long-term viability of higher education departments of education, and to the professional status of teaching.

Consequently, Labour will abolish the


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Teacher Training Agency and restore the partnership of schools and higher education institutions in the provision of initial teacher education.

Labour will put in place a General Teaching Council to recognise and promote the professional status of teaching. The General Teaching Council will fulfil a genuinely independent role in the regulation of the teaching profession. It will be of comparable standing to other professional bodies such as the General Medical Council and the Law Society.

A GTC will be asked to consider arrangements for the professional development of teachers and appropriate training for headteachers and others with additional responsibilities in schools. The GTC will be asked to widen access to teaching without diminishing levels of qualification.

Labour will introduce a framework National Core Curriculum for Teacher Education after consultation with interested parties. This will help ensure that the highest standards of teachers' education are maintained.

Labour will act to improve significantly the training of teachers to meet the special educational needs of children.

Labour will establish a supportive induction year, providing mentors for new teachers and introducing new mechanisms for improving quality at the earliest stages of teachers' careers in line with best practice. Labour will also undertake a comprehensive review of the recruitment, retention, needs, and support for teachers returning to the profession after breaks in service.

Recently, there has been a worrying reduction in the amount of in-service training undertaken by teachers. Teachers, as with all professionals, need to update and broaden their skills. Labour will develop a framework for the professional development of all teachers. Teachers' professional development programmes should be tailored to their own needs as well as to their schools' and national needs. An agreed national scheme of teacher appraisal will play a central role in ensuring that this can be achieved.

A proper emphasis will be given to the ongoing training needs of support staff in schools.

Inspection for quality schools

The government's market-based approach is not the way to ensure that standards are raised. Forcing schools into competition with each other within a framework rigged by unfair funding and meaningless league tables may penalise schools with a tremendous record of success, whilst rewarding those whose only achievement is to be located in the right area. Nor is the raising of school standards assisted by constant political intervention by government in the curriculum or by forcing schools to use scarce resources to conduct additional tests of dubious merit and purpose. Above all, it does not assist in raising standards if parents are treated as consumers instead of partners in the educational process or indeed if teachers' professionalism and dedication is undermined.

Assessment of pupils is necessary to diagnose and improve the progress of each individual. The regular reporting of assessment to parents should be part of the school's ongoing partnership between home and school. However, current testing arrangements are intended more to monitor schools and teachers than support pupils.

Schools cannot be judged by the production of simplistic and flawed league tables. Test results and league tables are not acceptable management tools in the assessment of school performance.

Parents require a much wider range of information to make informed judgements about the schools to which they wish to send their children. Those involved in managing schools and attempting to deliver high quality education require more than a league table based on the outcome of simple summative tests to assess their performance. Performance cannot be judged by a simple numerical indicator.

Labour will provide parents and the wider community with a full range of effective and accessible information about the performance of schools, rather than simply publish flawed league tables of examination results.

The publication of information is not enough. Nor can we rely solely on the market to deliver higher quality in education. Instead, we believe that schools must be helped to improve their performance by means of regular assessment and ongoing support, advice, and encouragement. This requires at the very least a comprehensive system of monitoring and inspection in which all concerned can have confidence.

For school inspection to be effective, influential and useful there must be a national independent system of inspection. The strength of HMI was not only that it provided an authoritative national voice, but also gave critical support to the improvements being made in children's learning on a national and local basis. The government has replaced this with a much more mechanistic and less professional approach to inspection.

The current inspection system is criticised because the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED ) is seen as insufficiently independent


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of the Secretary of State for Education and failing to provide schools with sufficient support and advice after an inspection.

Over the last decade more countries have recognised the importance of a body such as HMI to provide national evidence and to inspect from a national perspective. At the last election we proposed an Education Standards Commission that would carry out national inspection, be independent of the Secretary of State, and be able to provide criticism of government actions even if that were uncomfortable.

Labour will preserve the principles of that policy and integrate them into the present OFSTED framework to improve inspection and support procedures without introducing new bureaucracy.

The HMI role is still critical to the future quality of inspection and to inform policy making at national and local levels.

All schools need to be monitored on an ongoing basis, which can best be done by local LEA inspectors able to offer advice and ongoing support. The independence of local inspectors can be established, and they are in a strong position to offer the necessary advice and support. However, there needs to be a national procedure as well to monitor the quality of inspectors, ensure consistency in inspection throughout the country, and to maintain pressure for improvements. This would be the role of the national body.

The purpose of inspection is not just to provide a snapshot of a school at any one time but to analyse the school's performance and to indicate ways of improvement. At a local level, local education authorities should provide an independent inspection service and publish reports, and should be able to give advice and support to schools. Parents want a system that supports their children's education - detailed support, and advice on how to put things right or ensure further improvement. A local inspectorate has the opportunity to provide detailed support to sustain good practice, within a national framework to ensure consistency and constant pressure for improvement.

Governors and headteachers should publish with the school annual report a school improvement strategy, covering all aspects of the school's activities: academic, behavioural, sporting, education extra facilities, as well as contact with local communities, industries, and businesses. This could draw on comments and constructive criticism from inspectors in their role as critical friends, and ensure that inspection and monitoring were carried out in a positive way to improve the performance of all schools.



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Meeting individual needs: inclusive education

  • Labour supports an integrated and inclusive approach to education for children with special needs. Separate educational provision will be available where necessary on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • Special schools, validated as centres of expertise and initiatives, will link with and support mainstream schools.
  • Schools will be required in their annual reports to outline the implementation of their special needs policies.
  • There will be a national review to produce a coherent framework for the education and training of all people who work with children who have special educational needs.
  • There will be a thorough review during the third year of the government's new Code of Practice on special educational needs to determine how successfully it is working.
  • Children should, whenever possible and appropriate, be consulted on all aspects of their special education provision.
  • The recommendations of the Elton Report on curriculum development and the integration of learning and behavioural support should be implemented.
One in five children will need some form of extra help at some time during their school lives. For many this will be some extra individual lessons from their class teacher or a specialist. For others it may be separate provision on a temporary or permanent basis. It might mean a programme of accelerated learning, it might mean reading support, or it might require special access arrangements, equipment, or technical back-up.

The principle of inclusive education requires that there should be a presumption in favour of the integration and inclusion of all pupils unless it is shown that this is not in the best interests of a child at any time. Separate educational provision will be available where necessary on a temporary or permanent basis. Transitions from mainstream to special provision and vice versa must be handled with care, as must the transition of pupils with special educational needs from primary to secondary and then to further education.

All schools have children with special needs and all staff must have training for this. Schools also require specialist help, and the services for all children will need co-ordinating. This has to be the role and responsibility of the local education authority. The Special Needs Co-ordinators required by the code of practice should be trained under a national programme.

All LEAs must have an integrated approach; the pattern within each LEA must be part of a coherent regional provision, and some provision and training needs can only be met through a regional approach.

This will require a long-term strategy, with full consultation on the policy, plans, and resource allocation to ensure an integrated and inclusive approach is the norm. With the


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resources allocated appropriately, and with professional development courses for teachers, the number of children educated in a mainstream setting can be successfully increased.

Special schools, validated as centres of expertise and able to undertake fresh initiatives, will link with and support mainstream schools.

The expansion of nursery education is vital in tackling the special educational needs of children at an early stage (see Early Learning above).

It is vital that LEAs should have proper support services to provide families with the appropriate advice, guidance, and pre-school placements. The present patchy co-operation between education, health, and social services will be improved and Portage-type services - the provision of home assistance to people with severe learning difficulties - will become available in all areas.

The government's new Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs will be vital in enabling a comprehensive assessment to be made by a school of its needs in order to provide an effective and relevant education for all of its children.

Financial clarity will be essential within a school's budget to show the expenditure on implementing its special needs policy and the code of practice.

This will be part of the school's annual report to parents on the implementation of its special needs policies, and should also include information on the level and nature of services provided.

The issue of high quality professional education and training for work with children with SEN is one of the most important in special education provision today.

There must be a national review to produce a coherent framework for the education and training of all people who work with children who have special educational needs, particularly in the light of the requirements of the new code of practice. The DFE and the DoH will do this jointly to ensure the availability of appropriately skilled staff to meet the special educational needs of children.

Initial teacher education courses will have to make a significant improvement in the compulsory SEN component.

Parents will have the right of access to all professional advice gathered in connection with meeting the special educational needs of their children. They should also have access to an independent adviser at any stage of the process of the consideration of the special educational needs of their children.

There will be a thorough review during the third year of the code's life to determine how successfully it is working.

If parents are not happy with the way a school or LEA has proposed to deal with the special needs of their children, there should be recourse to a local independent appeals and conciliation procedure before going to the SEN Tribunal or the Secretary of State for Education.

Where it is clear that the special educational needs of a child are complex there should be no need to follow mechanically the stages outlined in the code of practice. If it proves impossible to meet parental concerns about the special provision being made in these circumstances then an assessment for a statement can be requested from the LEA.

Labour will review the extent to which the appropriate body - usually a health authority or trust - is meeting its obligations as set out in the non-educational part of the statement, especially in such areas as speech therapy, and will look at extending to England and Wales the duty on Scottish LEAs to make such provision.

Statements of special educational needs must be specific and all embracing in describing the needs of, and provision for, a child, including the school placement. The process must be completed within six months; if there is disagreement on any aspect of the provision and if the parents and the LEA cannot agree on conciliation, then the tribunal will consider the appeal. The decision of the tribunal will be final unless challenged on a point of law. Statements will be subject to an annual review. When a child is due to change school the annual review must be completed by the end of the penultimate term in the current school.

Children should, whenever possible and where appropriate, be consulted on all aspects of their special education provision.

There will have to be a review of the financial arrangements between central government and each LEA and between the LEA and its schools to ensure that the appropriate level of support services for SENs is provided.

LEAs in partnership with other services, eg, health and social services, must develop strategies to provide for children who are poor attenders, or virtual non-attenders at school. Visiting services and other suitable arrangements must be made to build up the confidence of children before they can take full advantage of learning opportunities in school.

The problem of exclusions, often associated with children who have emotional and behavioural difficulties, is growing at an alarming, yet probably under-reported, rate. It is threatening to become the most serious problem that many schools have to face.

The Department for Education should


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provide accurate annual information about the problem, and commission research into its extent and causes. This research will need to establish how schools can respond more promptly and effectively to the needs of children with such difficulties and thus minimise exclusions.

The recommendations of the Elton Report on curriculum development and the integration of learning and behavioural support should be implemented.

LEAs must further develop co-operative mechanisms with other agencies to meet the needs of these children and their families. Pupils excluded from school should receive an immediate assessment of their educational needs, where consideration should be given to returning to their original school, a place in another school, home tuition, or referral to a special unit, with the remit of preparing pupils for their return to school.

The principles and processes outlined in the code of practice will be extended to deal with post-16 provision and to ensure high quality access to post-Le opportunities across the whole country, whether in schools, HE, or FE.

A child in a wheelchair or with other mobility problems should not be defined as having a learning difficulty. LEAs should develop a programme to make schools accessible to people in wheelchairs as part of their own access policy to public buildings.

The development and delivery of education for children with special needs will involve close consultation and co-operation with the voluntary sector in addition to government departments and agencies.




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Towards lifetime learning



  • Labour believes that every young person should be able to continue in mainstream education, training, or training in work for two years after 16.
  • We will set in place a coherent 14-19+ framework for education and training.
  • Labour will develop a genuine parity of esteem between the academic and the vocational.
  • Labour will respond to the universal call to replace the present over-specialised narrow A level.
  • We will introduce a unified qualification structure that will incorporate the best practice from existing qualifications, whether academically orientated or geared to vocational skills.
  • We will create a General Certificate of Further Education (GCFE), building on the strengths and experience of the present GCSE. We will integrate GCSE and the new GCFE as part of a continuous structure for the 14 to 19+ group.
  • Labour's longer term target is for 80 per cent of the nation's young people to matriculate at GCFE. At the local level Labour will encourage individual targets for pupils, schools, and LEAs.
  • Labour will ensure that the governing structures of colleges are accountable and reflect the different social partners and the wider public interest.
  • Labour will review the role, functions, and accountability of the TECs.
  • Labour will review existing structures to offer an education and careers service that will provide lifetime advice and guidance.
In the modern world Britain's future is either as a knowledge-based economy built around the skills and talents of all our people, or the low-skill, low-tech, low-wage economy of the present government. Labour believes Britain must and can have the best educated and trained workforce in the world. We must develop structures that encourage the acquisition of knowledge and skills as a life-long process and continuing access to learning.

Our education system is a failure system for too many people and at too many stages. Over a quarter of young people fail to continue in education and training at the age of 16, and dropout rates are high thereafter. Between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of starters on further education


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courses fail to complete their courses - a massive drain on resources as well as a waste of human potential. A significantly lower proportion of 16-19 year olds is in full-time or part-time education in this country compared with other major advanced countries. In 1991 only 24 per cent of 18 year olds were in full-time education compared with more than 60 per cent in France and Japan.

The present system creates and emphasises an unreal division between education as a high status academic exercise and training as a lower status set of activities geared to the world of work. This is a split which has become irrelevant to a modern technological society and one which is increasingly being challenged in other countries. However, in Britain it continues to act as an inhibition on vocational training. According to the European Commission, in 1990 only 38 per cent of the UK workforce had undergone skilled vocational training compared with 58 per cent in Spain, 67 per cent in West Germany, 79 per cent in Italy and 80 per cent in France.

When we compare the standards of achievement in Britain, the rest of Europe, and other advanced and emerging industrial countries, Britain's achievements are alarmingly low. Whilst our top achievers compare with any country in the world, we suffer from a long tail of underachievement and a shortage of technological and vocational skills.

The training available for the unemployed is often of very low quality. Only one third of Youth Trainees gain a vocational qualification. Only 27 per cent adult trainees on Training for Work, and its predecessor schemes like ET, gained qualifications or credits towards one, and only 19 per cent were taken on in employment.

Labour will develop a system which motivates young people to stay in a broad-based educational and training structure and one which encourages people who presently do not do so to return to education and training at a later stage. We will set in place a coherent 14-19+ framework for education and training.

Labour will develop a genuine parity of esteem between the academic and the vocational by ensuring that all young people continue to have experience of a broad and balanced curriculum.

We will set targets to improve our performance, increase the numbers of young people in education and training and improve their achievements. We must also create pathways back for those who drop out.

The qualifications system

Labour believes the GCSE approach has been beneficial to young people and is widely supported. However, there is now almost universal agreement that there needs to be a change in the nature of the post-16 qualification system in Britain. The present plethora of qualification systems, described aptly by the CBI as a "jungle", needs rationalisation. Neither young people nor employers can make sense of the present structures, so access to courses is inhibited, the usefulness of qualifications as passports into employment is reduced, and transfer to different areas and progress to different levels is made more difficult.

We will introduce a unified qualification structure that will incorporate the best practice from existing qualifications, whether academically orientated or geared to vocational skills. Such a structure, once in place, will serve as the accreditation base for education and training initiatives undertaken in the workplace or in further education and leading to higher education. It will also provide one of the yardsticks by which to judge the merits of private providers whose role has grown in recent years, notably in providing courses for the unemployed.

Such a unified structure must build on the innovations of recent times in both further and higher education. Amongst these has been the introduction of GNVQs as a basis for full-time vocational education for the majority for whom the present NAS level is inappropriate.

Building on current best practice we will ensure an over-arching framework for all qualifications based on the principle of credit accumulation systems and on modular courses. This modularisation of courses depends on identifying core skills and breaking down courses into units which represent well-defined and well-understood levels of learning and attainment. In further education this process has undoubtedly been held back by the government's clear hostility to modular A levels, but it is widely regarded as successful and advantageous for the student.

Such a unified qualification system will allow the individual to define clearly how he or she wishes to progress. For employers it provides a better picture of the capacities and potential of their workforce. In this way we will break down the increasingly artificial divide between academic and vocational qualifications by recognising the value of both.

A General Certificate of Further Education

The GCSE has been widely accepted as a qualification that has both maintained standards and improved attainment, but we can still do


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better. Our initial target is for 80 per cent of our young people to be able to achieve the equivalent of GCSE grades A-C in core subjects.

Labour believes that every young person should be able to continue in mainstream education, training, or training in work for two years after 16. We want to prevent GCSE marking the end point of school life in a way that limits the achievements of the overwhelming majority. Accordingly, we will integrate the GCSE examination into part of a modular structure for all post-16 qualifications. This would involve turning GCSE into a series of major and minor credits. The GCSE should serve as a record of achievement for each student to give entry into appropriate post-16 education and training and work opportunities.

We will create a new General Certificate of Further Education (GCFE), building on the strengths and experience of the present GCSE. There is much to learn, in this regard, from the long tradition of academic education post-16 and the recent emergence of vocational qualifications like NVQs and GNVQs. This background can help us decide what organisations and structures are needed to guarantee that GCFE matches the best achievements of the past and builds on them to achieve the different aspirations of a changing world. We will integrate GCSE and the new GCFE as part of a continuous structure for the 14 to 19+ group.

Core elements of all GCFE courses would have to ensure that a balance was maintained between academic and vocational courses and between classroom contact and the world of work. Every young person should have the opportunity to combine education and training in a way that suits their individuals needs. To do less would simply condemn us to replicate the futile split in attitude and status which exists at present between A levels and NVQs.

Definition of the core elements of GCFE must be a matter for wide consultation, following acceptance of the principle of a unified qualification to be gained through credit accumulation.

The clearest possible relationship has to be established between levels of achievement at GCFE and the best qualification systems emerging in the international arena. Labour wants the best for all our young people. High achievements at GCFE should be easily identifiable with qualifications like the International Baccalaureate, and we will ensure that increasing numbers of our young people will attain these high status qualifications.

Labour's longer term target is for 80 per cent of the nation's young people to matriculate at GCFE.

For GCFE students pursuing a workplace based series of courses, the traditional craft apprenticeship model holds important lessons. The standards in our craft trades should be as high as anywhere in the world, and our craftsmen and women should be trained to the highest standards and be competitive with the best in the world. But GCFE will only be the start of craft based training.

We will ensure that every employer makes available appropriate structured training for 16-19 year old employees.

For young people in school or college we recognise the need to expand their experience of the outside world, and especially the world of work, in order to help develop the social and interpersonal skills which are largely absent from current educational experience.

All the main employers' organisations, further and higher education institutions, and public and private school groups alike agree that A levels are a real barrier to the development of further and higher education.

Labour will respond to the universal call to replace the present over-specialised narrow A level.

Learning for life

Labour is determined to reverse the falling level of skills within our workforce by raising the standards of education and training of our young people, widening access to retraining for those in work and providing training for real skills for those out of work.

Adult education and training not only increases confidence and skills but also provides routes back into work. It is a valuable resource for enhancing the quality of people's lives. The Cinderella status of adult education has been exacerbated by government cuts.

There are many barriers that have prevented, and continue to prevent, access to worthwhile and satisfying learning experiences for many adults. Adult education and training has been neglected both by central government and by employers.

This government has neither a long-term nor a short-term strategy for adult learning. The market has not provided a system which can meet and stretch the aspirations of the individual or serve the needs of the nation.

We will review the financing of further education so that the range of courses is designed on educational and training grounds. Equally we will provide a structure within which further education colleges and other agencies can plan course provision in co-operation to serve the wider community interest.


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Further education colleges are the backbone of adult education and much vocational training. However, the freedoms offered to colleges through incorporation have not been matched by adequate levels of accountability. Labour will therefore ensure the governing structures of colleges are accountable and reflect the different social partners and the wider public interest.

Those on benefit are also barred from full-time study. The social security regulations, which insist on claimants actively seeking and being available for non-existent jobs, debar anyone from receiving benefit who is engaged in studying for more than 21 hours a week. We will review the barriers that prevent those on benefit from undertaking study and improving their employment prospects. These and other issues relating to further and higher education will be discussed in greater detail in a forthcoming consultative document. In addition, a consultative document will be produced on the issue of the Youth Service.

A National Training Strategy

The Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) were supposed to usher in a new wave of training investment both for those in work and for the unemployed. The TECs have become entrenched in delivering low standard training for the medium and long-term unemployed which simply fails to open the pathways to skills that ought to exist.

The TECs have the potential to make a valuable contribution to local and regional economies by matching skills to jobs. However, we are aware of the widespread frustration with their present role, which has been expressed in the large number of resignations of directors from their boards.

Labour will review the role, functions, and accountability of the TECs in order to ensure: that their structure provides a balanced membership from the local community; that where public money is invested it is spent on high quality training; that they offer high quality training to the unemployed to equip them with the skills and qualifications needed to find work; and that there is investment in retraining the existing workforce in the skills needed for industrial expansion.

Labour will establish local mechanisms whereby all agencies involved in vocational training are brought together to plan and provide for the local labour market.

Amongst employers there are many who do train their employees and resent the fact that amongst their competitors are those who prefer to freeload, making no effort to train, and who exist by poaching those who have been trained elsewhere. Equally some companies which do not train, especially among the smaller firms, simply do not know how to assess the benefits of training or how to go about accessing relevant programmes.

Labour will open up greater opportunities for the retraining of those in work by introducing a national training levy to ensure that every company provides its workforce with the chance to upgrade its skills. The objective will be to encourage companies to focus on the training appropriate within their own business rather than treating training as an external function that is somebody else's responsibility.

Labour will undertake a skills audit of the nation which will enable the identification of the skills that are available and those in short supply, with a view to targeting training resources.

Labour will introduce new and extended anti-discrimination legislation to create the framework for tackling discrimination in training. Training providers will be required to take positive measures to eliminate discrimination and bias and to promote equity in the delivery of training.

The Labour Party document, Winning for Britain, also deals with skills and training and outlines Labour's strategy for industrial success.

An Education and Careers Guidance Service

Good quality, impartial, and accurate careers advice must be provided to young people and adults so they are able to make informed curriculum and careers choices.

Many LEA careers services have been run down in recent years in response to central government cut-backs in local government spending. This is a false economy. An Audit Commission/OFSTED report made it clear that there is massive waste involved in students making the wrong choices where such a service is absent or inadequate.

It is clear that other groups in society, such as the unemployed or adult returners, can benefit from a similar type of service. The Department of Employment used to offer a range of services providing a counselling role. Inevitably in recent years the credibility of DE schemes like Restart has suffered because they were more concerned with manipulating the unemployment claimant figures than offering independent advice.

The CBI report Routes for Success emphasised the "critical role" of independent education and careers guidance, and went on to make a


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powerful case for a service which recognises the need to offer high quality guidance at the earliest point where young people, begin to make choices.

It is vital that adequate contact be maintained with the education and guidance services throughout life. We will define exactly what service should be available for people, not just through their years of formal education and training, but also in later stages of career and life.

Labour will review existing structures to offer an education and careers service that will provide lifetime advice and guidance.





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Accountability and partnership



  • Labour believes that all those who make decisions in education, be they politicians at national or local level, school governors or professionals, must be accountable.
  • Labour's strategy for locally managed schools is based on the principles of subsidiarity, local accountability, and genuine partnership.
  • Labour will conduct a thorough review of all educational quangos, which have escalated in number and have been packed with Conservative acolytes.
  • Where there is a need for public appointment to any national body, the membership, and terms of reference, should be ratified by the House of Commons Select Committee on Education, to which each body should report annually.
  • Labour will swiftly abolish the Funding Agency for Schools to restore local accountability, place all schools - including those schools whose current status is GM or CTC - within the local democratic framework, and ensure that the funding of every school is equitable.
  • Labour will abolish the Assisted Places Scheme, which subsidises the independent fee-paying sector at the expense of the public sector and denies equality of opportunity.
  • We believe there is a strong case for the former voluntary aided schools, which have given up that status to become GM schools, becoming voluntary controlled schools and will have further discussions with those involved.
The coherence of our society and the strength of our economy depend upon the success of our education system. Accountability, therefore, must be not only to individual learners but also to the whole community both locally and nationally.

This means that decisions on educational policy and on funding must be made in a transparent and fair way, and be open to public scrutiny.

The centralisation of power in the hands of the Secretary of State, exercised often without reference to Parliament or through unaccountable quangos, reduces accountability in an unacceptable way.

All those who make decisions in education, be they politicians at national or local level, school governors or professionals, must be accountable for their actions and for their contribution to the quality of education for all, and must be representative of the communities they serve.

Labour will conduct a thorough review of all educational quangos, which have escalated in number and have been packed with Conservative acolytes. Those such as the FAS will be abolished swiftly to restore true local accountability. Where there is a need for public appointment to any body, the membership and terms of reference should be ratified by the House of Commons


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Select Committee on Education, to which each body should report annually.

Until recently a major strength of our education system was that it was built on the basis of partnerships, between central and local government, between church and state, between politicians and professionals, and a growing and welcome partnership between home and school. Labour will endeavour to reconstruct these partnerships.

There must be transparency and equity in funding in education, in all sectors, and between sectors. This will require a full review of present arrangements.

Labour will abolish the Assisted Places Scheme which subsidises the independent fee-paying sector at the expense of the public sector and denies equality of opportunity.

We will take a fresh look at the scope for working with educational trusts such as the Steiner Foundation and the Human Scale Group with a view to encouraging research which could have benefit for the whole of our education system.

A civilised society cannot operate when its education system is undermined by confrontation. We must stop the attempts by central government to undermine local democratic decisions, the persistent and detailed interference in curriculum matters by a Secretary of State and restore the position of parents as partners in education rather than as mere consumers.

Locally managed schools

Labour's strategy for locally managed schools (LMS) is based on the principle of subsidiarity. The individual school should have responsibility for those matters which can best be determined at school level, by governors, by parents, or by professionals, or by a combination of all these groups.

A school should also be able to draw on the collective strength of a community of local schools in which the local education authority provides essential local services for which it should be democratically accountable.

It is essential that the governing body of the school reflects the full collective strength of the community by including representatives of parents, teachers, other staff, elected local councillors, and representatives of local business and industry.

Labour will build on the success of LMS but will review the funding formulae to make them suited to each local area and more appropriate for individual schools. We must take greater account of current problems of average/actual teacher salaries and the need for greater flexibility for schools of different sizes. Any funding arrangements must be equitable, based on educational need, and be transparent and comprehensible to all involved.

A Labour government established the committee which published the Taylor Report of 1977. Out of this came real parental and community participation on governing bodies and a new role for governors. The 1988 Act further enhanced the duties of governors to include decision making on day-to-day aspects of finance, staffing, buildings and premises, information to parents, reporting of examination results and truancy levels, and a myriad other duties. While such participation is vital it has created potential conflicts between governors and headteachers, as well as leading to confusion in the division of disciplinary and employment responsibilities.

Recent legislation has enhanced the power of headteachers and governors with regard to hiring staff. There is an urgent need for new legislation to clarify the powers and role of heads and governors; careful consideration will be needed to get the balance right - although of course a spirit of partnership is essential for any sharing of powers to work. Teaching and non-teaching staff need the protection of nationally agreed terms and conditions of service. Governors are often unqualified, untrained, and unsupported. Yet they have the responsibility of making service provision decisions, often decisions that paid officials used to make. They are in an unenviable position of having much responsibility and limited power. The extended responsibility for governors has made it more difficult in some areas to recruit and maintain these volunteers, as does the uncertainty surrounding governors' liability and their role in employment and disciplinary matters. The problem that many governors cannot secure time off work for this responsibility should be examined.

Some local authorities have developed sound support schemes to help schools with the preparation and management of budgets. Such initiatives as peripatetic bursars for primary schools should be encouraged, but consideration must also be given to allowing schools greater flexibility about the degree of LMS which operates for their school.

Labour will encourage governor training and support mechanisms, including the establishment of local governors' forums and support groups. Training is essential for governors to fulfil their roles and specialist training should be available for governors who wish to take up particular responsibilities. Governors should be strongly encouraged to take advantage of such training including training on equal opportunities.


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Improving local partnerships

In many LEA areas significant steps have been taken to involve a wide range of individuals and groups in the consultation process before LEA decisions are made. Labour believes that there is a great deal of scope and justification for extending this. The co-option of parents, church representatives, and others on to local education committees is one way of consolidating the partnerships which are so important in the delivery of quality local services.

With LMS, schools have increasing autonomy in many areas. Labour has welcomed and supported this development. However, we believe that there are key local responsibilities that cannot be carried out efficiently and effectively other than by a democratically elected body. These include:

  • Planning for suitable schools places for every child. Each school can only offer and cannot guarantee a school place for each child. Nor can individual schools plan to eliminate surplus places in an area. Labour believes, subject to local consultation provision, that this is a role of an LEA not of an unelected quango.
  • LEAs must provide essential services to schools in the area, from school libraries to special needs, and must ensure proper coordination of the wide range of special needs provision required for children and young people.
  • LEAs must be active in providing parents with independent information about schools in their area and about their rights in relation to schools.
  • LEAs should, on an ongoing basis, inspect and monitor the quality of education in schools in their area, providing advice and support where needed and extending best practice. This could be done with LEAs acting as agents of and within the guidelines laid down by OFSTED.
Labour will consult on the creation of a community education forum in each LEA area. This could involve local parents, governors, teachers and other staff, church leaders and those in industry together with key Education Committee representatives.

A Community Education Forum could be given a statutory right to be consulted on a range of issues. It could, for example, be given a responsibility for considering each school's admission policy so that each school makes its own decisions but gains approval from a local peer group with appropriate safeguards for all schools so as to ensure, for example, that the arrangement for church schools is not compromised. A CEF could create a framework for Standing Advisory Conference on Religious Education decisions or decisions about co-operation on other local matters such as sport or drama facilities.

We wish to consult further on the nature of such changes and the experience in different areas before considering any legislative changes that might be appropriate.

Government controlled GM schools

If a school becomes grant-maintained it is often seen as having decided to opt out of the local education authority. In reality, grant-maintained schools are opting in to a centralised system under the direct personal political control of the Secretary of State for Education who can appoint governors, determine the curriculum, and decide the level of funding. There is a total loss of local democratic accountability.

Labour local education authorities up and down the country have developed programmes which directly involve parents not only in their local schools but also in overall planning for education in the community. In this way Labour is extending real involvement by parents.

The Labour Party believes in the vital importance of local accountability. The Funding Agency for Schools, with all its members appointed by the Secretary of State, and with its single national headquarters, cannot be accountable to parents and their local communities.

The Labour Party has always made clear its opposition to the policy of schools leaving their local community and opting into central government control. We believe that parents whose children attend a school at a particular time cannot be said to own that school in perpetuity. One generation of parents holds that school in trust for future generations.

Labour will abolish the Funding Agency for Schools, and place all schools, including those whose current status is GM or CTC, within the local democratic framework. We will strengthen the self-management of schools and ensure that the funding of every school is equitable and based on educational need, not on party political dogma. Our strategy for local management of schools will ensure that all schools maintain the principle of self-management under LMS.

We believe there is a strong case for the former voluntary aided schools, which have given up that status to become GM schools, becoming


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voluntary controlled schools and will have further discussions with those involved, recognising and respecting the strong links of many schools with churches.

The choice is clear: more Tory nationalisation of education or Labour's strategy for locally managed schools.

The Office for Standards in Education has said that there is no evidence that opting out leads to any improvement in standards. Several grant-maintained schools and CTCs have experienced well-publicised difficulties with money and management or educational problems.

Opting out is not the answer. All it will do, especially in the longer term (which could be just a year or two), is give the Government direct control of schools.

Labour believes that schools in a local community work best when they are working together, and they work best together when there is local accountability about their long-term futures. All schools now have considerable autonomy in managing their own affairs and are creating, within the framework of the local education authority, new forms of co-operation between one another.




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Conclusion



National prosperity depends on our ability to nurture and develop the talents and skills of all our people. That is why education - truly comprehensive and lifelong - will be at the forefront of Labour's project of national renewal. To reverse the failure and decline of the last fifteen years of Conservative government and to build a strong, healthy democracy, we need to make a reality of learning and achievement from the cradle to the grave.

We cannot modernise our society and provide a platform for individual success if we continually look backwards to the failed policies of a discredited past: market competition, selective schooling, and centralised control. But neither should we seek simply to restore previous patterns of educational provision. What we require is a new constitutional settlement for our education services: one that enshrines the principles of access for all, quality and equity, continuity, accountability, and partnership.

Labour's strategy for the local management of schools and the establishment of new community education forums will place democratic accountability and local self-government at the heart of a system that has been undermined by centralised political manipulation.

Labour's policies for effective learning in successful schools and our insistence on real parental choice will promote high aspirations, high standards and high levels of achievement.

Our policies for a dramatic extension of nursery education will ensure that all children get the very best start in life.

The founders of the Labour Party fought to establish the right to education for more than just the privileged few. Labour governments since then have made a reality of universal education between 5 and 16. The Open University, created by a Labour government, has provided genuine life chances for millions of adults and is the envy of the world. The task of the next Labour government is to complete the work: to unlock the potential of each and every citizen and to make a reality of lifelong learning.