From Cradle to Grave – Jeremy Corbyn’s National Education Service
The Labour Party achieved a landslide victory after the war. It must have been so exciting looking forward to peace, to the promise of a better world for ordinary people. Homes for all, and a National Health Service, a Welfare state. One thing was missing, and that was a National Education Service which is now planned by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Those days were remembered, in Think Left’s blog Academisation and the Demolition of our Education Service
After the war, the hope was that the Labour Party would introduce policies which would change the lives of working class people, leading to a fairer society, and a fair education system was on their list.
It was not just the working class who knew things needed to change. It had been clear that there was a shortage of skills during the war, and this led to the 1944 Education Act which led to the provision of free state education for all children from 5 -15.
The incoming socialist Labour government, led by Attlee, and inspired by Bevan, brought in popular policies, especially the introduction of a universal National Health Service, and an extensive social housing building programme. To the disappointment of many, a universal National Education Service was not an outcome, and this omission led to decades of disruption to an education service which, as I write, is now at a point of re-privatisation, via academisation.
Attlee’s government did not go far enough to eradicate the class-ridden divisiveness caused the by privileges from private education and public schools. The state-funded education system introduced was a tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern and rarer technical schools. Selection at eleven would determine the course of a child’s life before even reaching puberty. Meanwhile, the rich and privileged continued to send their children to private and public schools, which opened the doors to an elitist society and via Oxbridge right into the heart of our political system, maintaining class divisions.
Had Attlee’s government made the brave decision to solve the problem of private and Church schools, and introduced a free universal education system for all, and eradicated private education, I believe it would have led to a fairer, and much more settled system which would have benefited all as the NHS has done. Everyone benefits from an educated population. We share the technological advances, healthcare, scientific research, and can enjoy the Arts.
But that dream is still alive. Jeremy Corbyn wants to see a National Education Service
. Corbyn wants to see investment in education system from cradle to grave. Education is not about training for a job, about ticking boxes and league tables. Education is about enriching our lives – and life long learning. It is fifty years since Harold Wilson’s inspirational Open University which opened doors for so many.
Tory cuts and fees have taken the “Open” away and closed doors to this university without walls. Education should not end with a school certificate. There is so much knowledge and skills to share.
In July 2016, 100 Tory MPs call for return to grammar schools. Grammar schools select pupils, and are not open to all children. It is impossible to have selection without exclusion. The politics of superiority – a selfish, divisive attitude of “I want something you can’t have” is not unknown to the Conservative Party. But perhaps they have short memories, because it was Tory voters themselves, those who could not afford private schooling which decried the divisive grammar schools. Further development of the new comprehensive schools was due to disgruntled middle class conservative voters who could not get places for their children in what they perceived as their very own grammar schools, so resulting in the Tories losing power in 1964. This is something which Margaret Thatcher, while an advocate of the grammar schools, was well aware of. The Newsome report entitled “Half our Future”, published in 1963, recognised the eleven-plus failure and a drive towards a more comprehensive system was subsequently planned.
Comprehensive education was intended to be more inclusive. Indeed it is. But where there is an education system where privileges are bought – fast track entrance to university, schools with small class sizes, it cannot be fully comprehensive. Evidence shows that the comprehensive system has not failed yet the private system, which excludes those by wealth skews results.
Tuition fees are leaving a generation in debt, and as a result our society is wasting potential talent. The gap in university access between students from state and independent schools is widening. This is expected to widen further by the recent abolition of maintenance grants will hurt those most in need. John McDonnell rightly said to students protesting against hike in tuition fees
“Education is a gift from one generation to another, not a commodity to be bought and sold.
For generations now one generation has handed the baton onto the next, and it’s our job to ensure that the next generation has a better quality of life than the last.”
Education benefits us all. Corbyn’s Education policy will put an end to tuition fees, and restore grants. Building on that, his plan for an NES and a life-long learning service will open up education for everyone and enrich our lives and our society. The thirst for knowledge and skills does not stop and the school gates. Education is about life-long learning, and that is what Labour wants to see. We can start this dream at the very beginning of an incoming Labour government. This is exciting, positive politics and the spirit of ’45 is alive again.
“The case for investing in early years education towards universal free childcare is overwhelming. A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers a decade ago told us that in the long-term universal childcare would more than pay for itself – due to extra tax revenues from those in work and productivity gains. Politicians like to dress up in hard hats and hi-vis jackets on their pet construction projects, but lack the same enthusiasm for investment in social infrastructure.
In 2020 we should start by reversing the cuts to the adult skills budget and expand it into a lifelong learning service by adding 2% to corporation tax (still comfortably the lowest in the G7). This funding would be hypothecated to expand adult learning into a lifelong learning education resource. The extra tax revenues brought by a high skill, high productivity and high pay economy will fund further expansion.
A National Education Service will give working age people access throughout their lives to learn new skills or to re-train. It should also work with Jobcentre Plus to offer claimants opportunities to improve their skills, rather than face the carousel of workfare placements, sanctions and despair. We need a return to ambitious joined-up government.
While slashing college funding, Tories boasts of increasing apprenticeships. Yet too many are low quality, failing to give young people the transferable skills they need to get on.
It is clear that some employers are using apprenticeships and traineeships as a means of circumventing minimum wage legislation. This has to end.
“We will build a new National Education Service, open to all from throughout their lives. We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life, allowing greater sharing of caring responsibilities and removing barriers to women participating in the labour market. We will bring about the progressive restoration of free education for all; and guarantee quality apprenticeships and adult skills training.”
How refreshing to hear positive , sensible policies from Labour. Jeremy Corbyn speaks, honestly, pragmatic, socially desirable policies. He challenges the Tory myth of austerity, and these are the policies people have been calling for. All Labour supporters should sign up and vote for Jeremy Corbyn, who is just what the Labour Party and the people of Britain need. He certainly has my vote, my best wishes, and hopes.
- Telegraph: July 2016 – 100 Tory MPs back scrapping ban on grammars
- Education is a Collective Good – It’s time for a National Education Service
- Corbyn’s Leading with “Ten Pledges for Labour’s Britain”
- Telegraph, August 2016 :Jeremy Corbyn: You don’t need to settle for Tory Britain
- Comprehensive Education has not failed: February 2016 Melissa Benn and Janet Downs
- Abolition of Maintenance grant will furth those most in need: August 2016 Guardian
- Education – the End of the Grammar School, Independent
- 1963 Newsom Education Report “Half Our Future”
- Academisation and the Demolition of our Education System
- The University without Walls
- Undeniable Evidence that Academisation has Failed
- People’s History Museum, July 2015
- Brave Politics: Now Labour must take on the Banks
- Telegraph : Cameron rules out Grammar School revival