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Under the Tories Britain's education system is going backwards

Britain is seeing a decline in teaching quality, falling standards in core numeracy and literacy, and a number of worrying trends in vocational and apprenticeship education. But the Tories are doing nothing to stop it. Instead David Cameron and Michael Gove are allowing schools to employ unqualified teachers and limiting opportunities for young people – nearly 900,000 young people are still unemployed and the number of 16-18 year-olds in education and training is falling.

There are growing concerns that teacher quality is going backwards under this government:

  • There has been a 16% rise in the number of unqualified teachers in our classrooms in the last year alone. This is damaging teaching standards in maths and English.
  • The changes introduced by Michael Gove mean that England now has the lowest entry requirements to teaching in the developed world. Under this government, you now need more qualifications to work in a burger bar than to become a maths teacher.
  • Standards of maths and English – vital for the core literacy and numeracy skill prized by employers – are unsatisfactory and the Tories are failing to address the problem;
  • The CBI 2013 Skills Survey found that nearly a third of employers are dissatisfied with school leavers’ basic literacy and numeracy. Currently, less than 50 per cent of students have English and Mathematics GCSE (grades A*-C) by the time they reach 18 years old;
  • The lack of leadership by this government is revealed in Michael Gove’s refusal to commit to all young people studying maths and English to 18.

Apprenticeships are also in decline and the Tories are presiding over a worrying trend in unpaid apprenticeships at a time when people’s cost-of-living is spiralling out of control:

  • Under 19 apprenticeship starts have fallen by 17,000 between 2010/11 and last academic year;
  • There has been an alarming increase in the number of apprentices not receiving the legal minimum wage – this problem is getting worse under Vince Cable’s watch. According to a government survey the number of apprentices not receiving the legal apprentice minimum wage has increased by 45% (from 20 per cent to 29 per cent);
  • Fewer than 2 per cent of apprenticeship starts last year were at level 4 or above.


The Liberal Democrats have backed the Tories every step of the way

The Liberal Democrats signed-up to unqualified teachers from day one. They abstained on a vote ruling out unqualified teachers in the House of Commons, and as part of this coalition they have backed David Cameron every step of the way.

You can’t trust a word that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats say. They are breaking all their promises and have been too weak to stand up to David Cameron.

You can’t trust them – they are breaking their promises:

  • They promised to scrap tuition fees and then trebled them.
  • They promised not to increase VAT, warned against a “Tory VAT bombshell”, but then voted through a VAT rise on hardworking families.  
  • They promised a fair tax system with the wealthiest paying more but have cut taxes for millionaires.
  • They promised to be on the side of working people. They say they have fixed the economy, but hardworking people are £1,600 worse off since they joined the Tories in government.


Britain's education system would be better off under a Labour government

Our education system needs to change if we are to build the high-skill, high-wage economy we need to succeed as a country. We need to offer a clear, high quality vocational route right through education for young people wanting to pursue vocational and technical qualifications.

We face a national emergency in education. The attainment gap – the difference between the performance of socially disadvantaged children and their peers – has widened under this government and England’s international standing has stagnated in recent years. These worrying trends can be reversed by improving teacher quality and addressing the problems in vocational and apprenticeship education.

Labour has announced a series of policies that will transform teacher quality:

  • Ensuring all teachers gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)
  • Ensuring teachers, in line with other high-status professionals, have to revalidate as teachers in order to remain in the classroom
  • Introducing a ‘Master Teacher’ status builds on Labour’s focus on teacher quality reforms.

Labour will also raise the status and standards of vocational education and apprenticeships, providing better quality and quantity of educational opportunity and choice for our young people by:

  • Ensuring that all young people do some quality vocational learning from age 14;
  • Introducing a new gold standard Technical Baccalaureate for 16-19 year olds to provide a high status and clear vocational route through education. The Tech Bacc will include quality level 3 (A’ level standard) vocational qualifications accredited by employers and a work placement, giving young people a quality vocational award to aim for at 18.
  • Introducing a universal gold standard for apprenticeships so that we move towards a system where all apprenticeships are Level 3 qualifications, last at least 2 years, and are focused on new job entrants not existing employees;
  • Ensuring that every firm that wants a major government contract offers apprenticeships;
  • Offering employers, working collectively through reformed sector bodies, a ‘something for something’ deal – giving them more control over apprenticeship standards and funding, and in return asking that they create new gold standard apprenticeships in their sectors and supply chains.

This forms a core pillar of One Nation Labour’s plans to mend the broken link between growth and living standards, so that we can earn our way out of cost-of-living crisis. This involves big reforms – not big spending – to address deep-rooted problems and create an economy that is made by the many, not just a few at the top.

Only Labour will make the big changes necessary to fix Britain’s education system, restoring teacher quality and ensuring a path to education, skills and employment for all.

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