David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education

Labour leadership candidate David Miliband set out his vision of a "genuinely comprehensive education" at a school in Bristol today, speaking of his "brazenly aspirational" goal of inspiring a love of learning in children.

Labour leadership candidate David Miliband set out his vision of a “genuinely comprehensive education” at a school in Bristol today, speaking of his “brazenly aspirational” goal of inspiring a love of learning in children. He called for a “mature debate” on reforms to 14-19 education, questioning the “obstacle course” of GCSEs, AS and A level exams – “over-testing of a deadening variety” – and called for three-quarters of teachers to come from the top quarter of graduates.

The shadow foreign secretary also defended the previous government’s 50 per cent participation target for higher education and criticised the Coaltion’s opposition to it, pointing out that this level was already being achieved “by some of the most dynamic economies in the world”, including Finland, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, with the United States committed to having the highest proportion of university graduates in the world by 2020.

He said:

“I want to start with the issue that is most important to me: education, its purpose, its focus, its principles. I say most important, because after the accident of birth, over which government has no say, education is the most powerful way in which life chances are shaped, and it is an area over which Government has greatest power…

“My vision is of a society where children of all family backgrounds do get equal opportunities; but it has to be more than that.  I want more than the opportunity to be unequal, more than a fair race to be the next Stephen Hawking.

I am with Yeats: ‘Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of a fire,’ a fire of confidence and inquiry that needs to sweep across society with ever greater intensity, and is reflected in higher standards across the board. Far from watering down our aspirations, I think we should be scaling them up – in schools, colleges and in higher education.”

On school standards, he rejected “utterly and absolutely” the ‘more means less’ mantra of traditionalists, defended Labour’s record and called on the schools secretary to do more to tackle unfairness in school funding:

“England is well above average compared to our competitor nations in English at the end of primary school and Maths in years 6 and 9. We are just off the top of the table in Science in year 9.  In education, as in health, 13 years of Labour government brought Britain back into the European mainstream.

“41,000 more teachers, 120,000 more teaching assistants, every school a specialist school to drive up quality, the number of seriously underperforming secondary schools cut dramatically from 1600 to 260, staying-on rates improved at 16, and far more young people going on to university and further education.

“Investment was significant and sustained, including over £6 billion a year invested in buildings, but so was reform – in respect of new ways of working, bringing in new practices and providers, tackling chronic failure, promoting strong leadership.  And the poorest schools with the poorest children showed the fastest improvement.”

He added:

“The Government Academies Bill has a different purpose – to extend the academy model to existing successful schools. Recent analysis by Ofsted shows these schools teach 40 per cent fewer poor pupils than the national average; the existing Academies have nearly three times as many.

“I note with particular concern that despite the coalition’s rhetoric of fairness, Michael Gove won’t even agree to put in the Academies Bill provisions which would require funding to be fair between different categories of school, or which would require successful new Academies to support less successful schools. This needs to be a matter of law not grace and favour.

Describing teachers as “the bedrock of quality”, he said there should be more accountability in the profession and that more should be done to  encourage teachers to take up posts in challenging schools and in harder to recruit subjects; he said the curriculum forced too many high achievers to specialise “too early and too narrowly” and called for a debate about the future of GCSEs; and he said Britain, far from reducing university places, should be aiming for 60 per cent participation rates “if we want to compete with the world’s biggest economies”.

He concluded by saying:

“The two golden tests for policy are simple: do they raise standards and do they narrow the social class achievement gap? I feel passionately about these goals because I was brought up to believe they are achievable.  Both my parents were teachers.  Fundamental to my upbringing was the idea that there is so much we do not know, but so much reason to try and find out. That is the optimistic spirit of enquiry that needs to drive our education system.”

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24 Responses to “David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education”

  1. Ben Mosley

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt – DM has some excellent ideas #dm4leader

  2. Isabel Izzy O'Connor

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt

  3. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt

  4. Jessica Asato

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt #dm4leader

  5. Wes Streeting

    RT @Jessica_Asato: RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt #dm4leader

  6. Ben Lyons

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt #dm4leader

  7. Trakgalvis

    David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt via @leftfootfwd

  8. Harriet Platts

    @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt – DM has some excellent ideas #dm4leader

  9. Anon E Mouse

    I do hope this Miliband wins the leadership election. God help us all if his weird brother or that useless bully Ed Balls gets elected – that’d be the quickest way to decades in opposition…

  10. Huw Irranca-Davies

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education http://bit.ly/dp4dvt

  11. Nick Bent

    RT @Jessica_Asato: RT @leftfootfwd: David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education: http://bit.ly/dp4dvt #dm4leader

  12. Tweetminster

    "David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education" http://bit.ly/9d0UhF

  13. Martin Moland

    Her tenker Miliband mye bra om utdanning: http://bit.ly/cpCxJo

  14. TheBiPolarBearMD

    RT @tweetminster: "David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education" http://bit.ly/9d0UhF

  15. Liam McKee

    I like it. I like it a lot David. http://bit.ly/9bO7Yx #labour #education #condem #ukpolitics

  16. sooper mouse

    RT @LiamMcKee: I like it. I like it a lot David. http://bit.ly/9bO7Yx #labour #education #condem #ukpolitics

  17. Laura Palmer

    “England is well above average compared to our competitor nations in English at the end of primary school and Maths in years 6 and 9. We are just off the top of the table in Science in year 9. In education, as in health, 13 years of Labour government brought Britain back into the European mainstream.”

    Surely by “competitor nations” he can’t mean other European states. You would hope English pupils would be more proficient at learning their mother tongue than, say, Dutch children learning English. Then again…

  18. NikosDT

    Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of a fire DMiliband unveils 21st-century vision for education http://bit.ly/9d0UhF

  19. blogs of the world

    Labour leadership candidate David Miliband set out his vision of a genuinely comprehensive… http://reduce.li/rvnz58 #vision

  20. Weekend Reading, 2 July 2010 « Policy Progress

    […] Left Foot Forward – David Miliband unveils 21st-century vision for education No Right Turn – Climate change: A comparison BigCake – State businesses creep into new pastures […]

  21. David P.

    Milibanana sure knows how to please a crowd–as all well-scripted actors do. But giving 60% of the population a degree is a recipe only for worsening the already-desperate plight of large numbers of graduates whose qualifications employers so often discount and whose academic awards the economy frequently cannot accommodate.

    Like most of his New Labour spinmeister colleagues, he’s learned nothing from the (unachieved) 50% fiasco which has ensured that for the past decade the UK has had too many justifiably frustrated degree-educated retail workers and office temps.

    Two things follow if a government simply floods the labour market with lots more degree-holders. First, as with money so with qualifications, the currency is debased through excessive issuing and the value of a degree ineluctably falls until a new kind of distinguishing mark eventually takes its place (as W.S. Gilbert aptly joked: “When everybody’s somebody, nobody’s anybody”; the emerging distinguishing mark in Blair’s “50%” era appears to be the postgrad. degree). Second, while governments can certainly make sure a lot more degree are awarded, they can do nothing to ensure a commensurate increase in jobs with the sorts of status, prospects and remuneration that degree holders expect. So a qualification-job mismatch becomes commonplace.

    As the victims/beneficaries of Blair’s “50%” soundbite have discovered, including too many of my own students, having a 2.1 from a good university is no longer anything like enough to provide an excellent chance of the kinds of employment they thought they were being promised in the “knowledge economy”. Indeed, many employers now seem to suspect that a 2.1 isn’t even evidence of basic skills, reliability and personal industriousness.

    Milibana therefore ought to drop the glib sloganising that he favours when talking about higher education and put his thinking cap on again.

  22. Cameron cuts back on truth | Left Foot Forward

    […] This is a statistics that says nothing of how education has improved in recent years. As David Miliband said during the leadership contest, “England is well above average compared to our competitor […]

  23. Shamik Das

    Gd q frm P Hollobone on targets; Willetts: "Currently 40%, shd remain flat" – however, US, Fin, SK, Aus, NZ all higher: http://bit.ly/9bO7Yx

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