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Monday 1st October 2012 | 22:00
by Paul Waugh
Ed Miliband will use his keynote conference speech tomorrow (Tuesday) to unveil education and apprenticeship reforms aimed at helping the “forgotten 50 per cent” of British youngsters who don’t go to university.
In what aides are describing as his most ‘personal’ ever speech, the Labour leader will also draw on his upbringing as a pupil at a comprehensive school and the son of Jewish refugees.
Mr Miliband will declare that too long both major parties have focused too heavily on just those young people who go to university while ignoring the plight of the 50% who do not go on to higher education.
Among the key changes would be a requirement that all pupils and students study English and Maths to the age of 18 even if they are on a vocational course. A new ‘Tech Bacc’ or Technical Baccalaureate would be introduced.
In what he described as a radical shake-up of the education system, he will announce a Labour government would hand control of £1bn in skills funding to businesses to improve standards of apprenticeships and training.
Mr Miliband will outline how Labour would offer:
* offer a clear vocational route to a gold standard qualification at 18 called a Technical Baccalaureate
* insist that all young people study English and Maths to 18 as a strict condition for the award of Tech Baccs
* involve business in the design of vocational qualifications while ensuring anyone studying for a Tech Bacc successfully complete a programme of work experience
* give business control over the state-run Skills Funding Agency funding of £1 billion to spend on apprenticeships as well as more say in setting the standards for qualifications
* ensure groups of larger businesses – coming together in regions, sectors and supply chains – have the powers they need to deliver the increased number of apprenticeships Britain needs to rebuild. These bodies will work with employees, unions and training providers.
* introduce a new Fast Track for apprentices, matching the Fast Stream for graduates, into the civil service
* require all contractors procured by Government to run apprenticeship schemes
Expanding on the ‘Rebuilding Britain’ theme of the party conference, Mr Miliband will explain how Labour will build a new system for young people to have apprenticeships to go into when they leave education at 18 with “Tech Baccs”.
The party says that nearly half of employers say that the prospect of trained staff being poached by rival firms deters them from training employees.
At present, 48% of young people go on to university and 52% do not. Aides stressed Labour is not abandoning its 50% target for university but wanted to switch its focus.
Echoing a new party broadcast featuring his former schoolteacher and fellow pupils, Mr Miliband will talk of his experience of going to Haverstock Comprehensive in London during the 1980s.
“I was born at my local NHS hospital, the same hospital where my two sons were born.And I went to my local school with people from all backgrounds. I still remember the motivation, the inspiration from some amazing teaching. It was a tough school, but one with order, because of the scariest headmistress you can imagine, Mrs Jenkins. My school taught us a lot more than just how to pass exams: it taught people how to get on with each other, whoever they are and wherever they were from. I will always be grateful, because I know I would not be standing here today as leader of the Labour Party without my comprehensive school education,” he will say.
Party insiders refused to say whether Labour would adopt the Eng Bacc reforms proposed by the Education Secretary recently for 2017. The party is considering the plans.
Tonight, in response to the speech extracts, a spokesman for Mr Gove said: “We are replacing discredited GCSEs with tougher new exams and moving control of A Levels from politicians to Universities.
“Miliband will continue to devalue exams, con people with false statistics, and leave millions of state school pupils unemployable. We have increased funding for apprenticeships and given teachers the power to strengthen discipline which Miliband opposes.”
“My family hasn’t sat under the same oak tree for the last five hundred years. My parents’ came to Britain as immigrants, Jewish refugees from the Nazis. I would not be standing here today without the compassion and tolerance of our great country, Great Britain, a country that my parents saw rebuilt after the Second World War.
The people he meets as Labour leader:
“The young woman I met earlier this year at a youth centre in London. She had hope and ambition, she bubbled with talk about her future, she had sent off 137 CVs but not even had a reply to any of them
“The small businessman I met in July. Alan Henderson, proud of the sign-making business he built up over 40 years. Alan was ripped off by the bank he had been with all that time and has been living through a nightmare ever since.
“The people across the Britain I meet who always thought they would be comfortably off, but are now struggling to pay their bills. They ask: how is it that when oil prices go up, prices at the pump go up, but when oil prices go down, the price stays the same? They ask: why do our gas and electricity bills just go up and up and up? They ask: how is it that the privatised railways seem to be making lots of money but the prices go up by 10% a year? They think the system doesn’t work for them. And, you know what? It doesn’t.
“Our problems are deep. But they can be overcome. Deep problems: about who Britain is run for, and who prospers in it. About one rule for those at the top and, too often, another rule for everyone else.
“At my school there were kids who were good at exams and went on to university. For whom the world would open up, like it did for me. But there were others, who had different talents and abilities, but to whom school didn’t offer very much. It was true 25 years ago, and it is even more true today”
“For years and years, our party has those young people who go to university. And that matters. But it’s time now to focus on those who don’t go to university. The young people who are too often the forgotten 50 per cent. We cannot succeed if we can have an education system which only works for half the country.
“In the 21st century everyone should be doing some form of education up to 18, not 16. That gives us the chance and the obligation to develop a new system from 14 to 18, in particular, for vocational qualifications. I want a curriculum that is rigorous and relevant with English and Maths up to 18, not 16, culminating in a new technical baccalaureate at 18 based on gold standard qualifications.
“I want ours to be a country where kids aspire not just to go to Oxford and Cambridge but to excellent technical colleges and elite vocational institutions. We need to do what we haven’t done in decades: build a culture in our country where vocational qualifications are not seen as second class certificates but for what they can be - a real route on and up to quality apprenticeships and jobs.”
The challenge on apprenticeships and training:
“Today only one in three of our biggest firms has apprenticeships. And the public sector which should be leading the way, is not playing its part.
“So we need central government to step up and take on many more apprentices. And under a Labour government all big firms that want government contracts will offer apprenticeships. Because with these firms, we’re not just buying goods and services, we’re rebuilding Britain together.
“And we need a new deal with British business too. As you have long asked for: you get control of the money for training. As you have long requested, you set the standards. Sector by sector, we’re going to give business the power and responsibility to make sure the training happens.
“But there can be no place for firms just getting a free ride, poaching workers when they should be training up the next generation. No change is not an option.”
“Think about the alternative agenda from this government. Michael Gove will drive us further apart. He wants to introduce two tier academic exams at 16. He’s wrong because I remember what it was like at my school when we had two types of academic exams: O-levels and CSEs. It just wrote a whole set of people off. We don’t want to go back to that.
“He has got contempt for vocational qualifications. He even got rid of those like the engineering diploma that had the support of business. And he has nothing to say about education beyond 16. He is stuck in the past, offering no vision for the 21st century.
“There is a choice of two futures for education. The Tory plan for an education system designed for a narrower and narrower elite. Or our plan."
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Summaries and transcripts from TV and radio
5 hours ago on Westminster Hour, BBC Radio 4
5 hours ago on Westminster Hour, BBC Radio 4
6 hours ago on Westminster Hour, BBC Radio 4