Andy Burnham called today for Labour to go further than Blair’s call of “education, education, education”, saying that their new priorities must be “aspiration, aspiration, aspiration”. Miliband yesterday raised the issue in his own way:
[The] truth is that the problem in some of our schools is not just investment. It’s also about values. Of bright children held back when aspirations are low. Or when closed circles at the top of society shut them out. In any one year more than a quarter of our schools don’t even send 5 kids to the most competitive universities. Is anyone seriously telling me that there aren’t pupils at any of those schools who are good enough to go?
Although some universities will be smarting at the implication that they are not trying hard enough to reach out to students with deprived backgrounds, the lack of aspiration is a real problem. The number of students who are told by their school not to bother applying makes any access effort by the universities themselves wasted. Burnham today echoed Miliband’s calls for aspiration for the brightest, regardless of class, calling for a Labour alternative to Gove’s English Baccalaureate:
A curriculum that sets high ambitions for everyone in English and Maths. A curriculum that gets young people ready for the modern world where they can expect to have around 10 job changes and will need different skills and qualities to succeed. Not segregated routes between academic and vocational education but a true Baccalaureate. A unified programme of study geared to the needs of the 21st century: stretching the brightest, yes, but giving all children a relevant route and a solid qualification behind them.
And he made a strong argument that Labour would stand apart from Gove’s plan by calling for aspiration for all students, not just those on a path to the top universities, by re-hauling the apprenticeship system:
Young people on the university path know what is expected if they are to make the grade. I want young people who aspire to apprenticeships to have the same clarity, ambition and sense of purpose. I want them to be able to find out and apply for them in exactly the same way as people apply for university. So let’s look at a national UCAS-style system for apprenticeships, raising sights, rewarding those who work hardest, giving all children hope and a goal in life.
So whereas the Conservative plan to “give [young people] back their future” involves Tuition fees trebled to £9,000, the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance, £200 million cuts to careers services, record youth unemployment, Tory councils charging poor kids to access playgrounds, cuts to Sure Start, and cuts to free school meals, the Labour plan for aspiration for the youth involves making the top universities accessible for every social background, and putting in place a curriculum that aids students of every ability. That is a comparison which must look quite concerning for Gove and co.
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• Fees, cuts… Is this what Cameron means by “giving young people back their future”? – Shamik Das, September 14th 2011
• Burnham: “What on Earth is Simon Hughes’ job all about?” – Shamik Das, January 20th 2011
• Look Left – Johnson and Coulson quit as everyone forgets about Blair – Shamik Das, January 21st 2011
• League tables show Gove’s lack of ambition on underperforming schools – Rick Muir, January 13th 2011