LABOUR will establish a “cradle to grave” national education service based on the principles of the NHS, the party’s annual conference heard yesterday.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner announced plans for a lifelong learning system open to all.
She outlined the core principles to form the basis of the new service as the party set out its vision to radically transform Britain’s education system.
The national education service, which formed part of Labour’s general election manifesto, was “a promise from a Labour government to the British people,” Ms Rayner said.
She told conference that education “informs, inspires and it empowers,” drawing on her experiences as a trade unionist where workplace education gave people the chance to “learn more and earn more.”
Ms Rayner said: “Other people need that chance. So, our national education service will be lifelong, providing for people at every stage of their life.”
She pledged that Labour would consult on the development of the service and promised that teachers would be at the heart of it.
“But we have to pay them properly,” Ms Rayner said, adding that a Labour government would scrap the public-sector pay cap and reintroduce national standards for teaching assistants and support staff.
“They look after our children. We should look after them,” she insisted.
Unions in the sector welcomed the announcement, with National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney describing the plan as “a ray of light” after years of a narrow curriculum in schools and colleges and a “lowering of educational horizons.”
University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said the 10 draft principles of the proposed service were “a great starting point for developing an alternative to our fragmented education system,” recognising cost should never be a barrier to participation in learning.
Ms Rayner told the conference: “The Labour Party was founded to ensure that the workers earned the full fruit of their labour.
“Human knowledge is the fruit of thousands of years of human labour” and it should be our common inheritance, as “knowledge belongs to the few, not the many,” she stressed.
“This is our historic purpose as a movement. Not just to be a voice for the voiceless, but to give them a voice of their own. That is the challenge we face. And it is what we will do, together.
“We have got the government running. Now let’s get running the government.”