I opened the debate on education and children at Labour Party Conference 2015. Here is the speech I gave:
Education is the most powerful tool we have to change lives:
- giving us the skills we need to get good jobs and grow the economy;
- lifting people out of poverty;
- and driving the innovation that will one day help us find the cure for cancer.
But only in government can we can put our values of social mobility, equality and opportunity for all into practice, and give every child the best possible start in life.
We achieved fantastic things in government:
- Sure Start;
- academies that gave children in deprived areas a better education;
- and, although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a Labour government that meant the Portakabin in my primary school was knocked down and replaced by proper classrooms.
We literally changed lives.
And we should always be proud of that.
Now the Tories are undoing all that great work.
Already, the number of teachers leaving the profession is at a ten year high and, despite the incredible work our teachers and heads do, the gap in attainment between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is widening.
And the sad truth is we don’t have the power to do anything!
That is why we must win in 2020.
The simple fact is that we have only ever won – and been able to achieve great things – when we have taken votes from the Tories.
Those who voted for the Tories in May aren’t bad people. They are parents, grandparents, teachers and young people who want a better life for themselves and their families.
They chose the Tories because our offer wasn’t good enough and we weren’t trusted to deliver on our promises – as I was told again and again on doorsteps across the country.
We failed to win over enough people to form the Labour government that so many people in our country so desperately need.
We win when we offer a credible alternative to the Tories’ plans. One which will deliver for the country as a whole – not just those at the very top or the bottom.
The biggest difference we can make is by investing in early years’ education. Life chances – including your chance of going to university – are determined at a young age.
If we are really serious about equality of opportunity in higher education, the answer is intervention before the age of three. The priority has to be breaking the cycle of deprivation that prevents working class people accessing higher education.
We must look at our priorities elsewhere too.
Not obsessing over school structures, but instead ensuring every child receives a fantastic education, from great teachers, and an invigorating curriculum.
Conference, I’m 23 years old.
By the time I’m 28, I will have spent my first 10 years of adulthood living under a Tory government.
I’ve already seen so many of my friends struggling to find jobs and make ends meet.
I don’t want to see my children – or anyone else’s – in the same position.
I know we can win.
We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.
Education can be the silver bullet – with a Labour government.
Let us be a credible government-in-waiting and then once again transform the life chances of a generation.