Last week, I joined the Federation of Educational Development (FED) for the launch of their National Education Consultation Report 2022, in the House of Lords. It was an honour to be amongst so many headteachers, trust leaders and professionals that are working to create an education system that listens to and works for children.
In The Big Ask, the majority of children told us they like school and they were excited to be back after months of gruelling online learning during the pandemic. However, some children spoke of an education system that they felt let them down and quashed their ambitions. I am working with my office to ensure that school is the best place it can be so all children can feel supported to achieve.
My priority is to ensure that all children that should be in school are in school. Coming out of the pandemic there is a worrying increase in the number of children persistently absent or missing from education altogether. We need a collective effort from all those who work to support children to get them back into school in September and attending regularly. My mission is 100% attendance on the first day back in September and if we work together now, I think this is possible.
FED’s consultation report, based on interactions with many hundreds of stakeholders, has one clear conclusion: in order to facilitate improvement in education for all children across England we need one, long-term, strategy and plan for education. And in my view they are right. My office and I have been out across England, working tirelessly to bring children’s voices to the heart of the policy debates around schools, SEND, children’s social care and mental health. We need to make sure that now we are focusing on successfully implementing the promise of reform in these areas and set out in work like the Schools White Paper, the SEND Green Paper consultation and the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care. However, these radical reforms need to be delivered together, as part of a cohesive long-term strategy to ensure that children, irrespective of where they live and what support they need, receive a world-class education that prepares them for success as they grow up.
At the launch event we got to hear from two inspirational students, Claire and Muhammed, who are members of FED’s Learners Council. They spoke of the ‘postcode lottery’ that exists for children in school across England whereby, under the same education system, some children get the right support and opportunities, whereas others do not.
They emphasised my mantra, that real improvement and delivery of a quality education system comes from listening to children when creating policy. As Claire reminded us all, creating policies that affect children should not be something done to young people but created with them.
The effect of the pandemic is still felt in the education world, so everyone working with children needs to have a long-term vision for how better support our children and young people. I want to thank FED, once again, for inviting me to their launch event and their important work on their National Education consultation for 2022.