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Labour’s education achievements

This is the text of a speech prepared for 2012 Labour Party Conference:

Chair, conference, good morning. Julian Bryant, Dartford CLP

I was until recently involved in widening participation for creative industries higher education, and this is my first conference because, until last year, this would have been the start of the academic year where I would have been inducting working class ethnic minority and disabled students.

I want to tell you about former student of mine, let’s call him Jordan. It might be Emma, or Maria, or Ravi, but Jordan will do. He’s a composite of many students I worked with. Jordan is from a working class family, and dyslexic, and had a reasonably bad time at school until he found the lighting board and made himself indispensable. Had he been forced into the English Bacc, no question he’d have been failed. The English Bacc is to him at best an irrelevance, at worst downright dangerous.

Not for Jordan the erudite essays. He was driven to learn because he needed to know. How to get the moving lights to work; how to map projections like these behind me on to the surface of a building; how to rig a radio mic; how to get a nervous performer on to a stage; how to rig the trussing safely. He learned through what we academics call ‘deep problem learning’ assignments – coursework with real situations. Articulate in conversation, passionate about culture, sensitive to nuances of meaning, he learned so well that he graduated with honours, and is now earning a good living with a specialist events company on opening ceremonies and party conferences, for example.

Thanks to Labour – you and me, and the people we helped to get elected, WE made this possible for students like Jordan. From the Aimhigher network with its partnerships, to new buildings at schools and FE colleges such as ours at NorthWest Kent, to Educational Maintenance Allowance, Higher Education for nearly 50% of young people, to Creative Partnerships and to the new skills centre for creative and cultural industries in Thurrock, Labour made it happen. All it takes is imagination, and a lot of hard work.

Inevitably much of this has been wrecked by the present Government, and I think we know why. It’s the partnerships I miss most, where schools work together rather than competing. But we can do it again – we have to do it again for the next Jordan – and we will do it again. I welcome Ed’s announcement of a Technical Baccalaureate – it is a great innovation, part of a Labour vision of education which is about learning, from the cradle to the grave, and for the many, not the few.

And if you see the events team, thank them. One of them might be Jordan.

Conference I support the motion, and support former Dartford councillor Andy Sawford in Corby and East Northants.