Children will get better careers advice and a stronger focus on vocational education if Labour wins the election, according to a shadow minister on a visit to a Durham secondary school.
Labour’s shadow education minister Tristram Hunt visited St Bede’s Catholic School, in Lanchester, to highlight the pledge.
Mr Hunt, who is MP for Stoke on Trent, believes many of the region’s young people will benefit from a more hands-on approach.
He told The Journal: “One thing Labour would change quickly is the current lack of focus on technical and vocational education. That means decent apprenticeships and a more flexible curriculum that suits the needs of each region and its young people going forward.
“Labour also actively encourages partnerships between schools and the relationship between primary and secondary.
“I’m aware of the situation in the North East, where the region’s primary schools are outperforming its secondaries. But it’s a challenge in Stoke on Trent, which I represent. We see a lot of young people falling back by the time they reach secondary school.
“I think a lot of young people beging to get bored by their learning environment and that is why a one-size-fits-all curriculum simply doesn’t work from region to region. We need to make education relevant and interesting. It’s about raising young people’s aspirations, not putting them off.”
Labour’s reforms would also involve greater responsibility being placed on schools to track what their pupils go on to do, whether it be further education, training or work.
Schools that fail to ensure pupils progress in this way would face losing funding, with the money used to transform careers guidance in those schools and going to local employers to develop partnership programmes offering structured careers advice.
Almost a million young people are currently NEET because careers advice and guidance is inadequate, Mr Hunt says.
He said the proposals would address the talents of the “forgotten 50%” of young people who want to pursue vocational routes through education.
Condemning Education Secretary Michael Gove’s view of vocational education as “at best an after-thought”, Mr Hunt said: “Reforms must focus on driving up standards in maths and English, strengthening character and resilience and equipping the labour market of the future with the skills set it needs.
“All the evidence is that you need trained professionals to provide decent careers advice, and what you also need is face-to-face guidance.”
Mr Hunt also raised his party’s plans to force all teachers to obtain qualified teacher status.
“I find the rise in unqualified teachers in classrooms unacceptable,” he said. “No wonder professional teachers are taking to the streets and protesting up and down the country.
“Quality teachers are the key drivers of improvement in schools and our policies are focussed on training and the professional development of teachers.”