Rishi Sunak Speech

Headline-seeking announcements are no substitute for doing the hard work fixing the major challenges facing education.


Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech to Conservative Party Conference which confirmed plans for an Advanced British Standard for all 16-18-year-old students, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"Rishi Sunak is doubling down on pie-in-the-sky education policies. He is completely out of touch with reality. 

"The Government's long-standing failure to hit its own training targets, compounded by the haemorrhaging of teachers due to high workload and below inflation pay, made the Prime Minister's call in January for more maths teaching an impossible dream. His Government's reduced training targets were again missed this summer. The Advanced British Standard, briefed out last month and confirmed today, is even more misconceived and extends his detachment from reality. There is no magic wand to create English and maths teachers in sufficient numbers to educate 11-16 year olds, let alone at A-Level too. 

"We already have a shortage of secondary teachers. One in six English teachers and one in five mathematics teachers do not have a post A-Level qualification in the subject. We need an additional 4,300 mathematics teachers and 2,600 English teachers to cover current needs. 

"Post-16 curriculum reform is worthy of debate, but simply increasing the number of hours taught would require an additional 5,300 teachers. This year the Government missed their recruitment target for secondary teachers by 48%.  

"School leaders are telling us they are struggling to recruit and retain across all subjects. The recruitment and retention crisis is caused in the main by excessive workload and below inflation pay. This is a root and branch problem not solved by bursaries, ‘golden hellos’ and other Whitehall gimmicks. They cannot have a lasting impact on subject shortages, which have been badly behind year on year, when the fundamental causes of teachers leaving remain in place.  

"The casual headline-seeking announcements of the Prime Minister are no substitute for serious planning to address the needs of all our 16-year-olds, whatever courses they take. 

"Rishi Sunak missed an opportunity today to reset an education system in crisis. The Prime Minister said that he would prioritise education funding, but this is after 13 years of real-terms cuts. When David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, Britain spent 5.7% of national income on education. Today it stands at 4.2% - among the lowest rates in the OECD. We believe that rate should be raised to 5%. 

“Education unions have called for at least £4.4bn+ extra per year for school buildings, following the RAAC disaster on this Government's watch. We also need answers on workload. The narrow obsession from the PM means also that the Department for Education has taken its eye off the ball on the failure of T-Levels and the need to retain funding for Applied Generals. 

"The Prime Minister is unwilling to do the hard work on fixing the major challenges facing education. Any education reform needs to deal with and confront the crises facing our schools and colleges, and this must be done in consultation with the profession to avoid yet more unworkable ideas."

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