Angela Rayner: Labour’s National Education Service will have the same transformative impact as the NHS
Labour will create an education system that allows all to reach their potential, and plays a part in making sure our society succeeds for all its citizens, writes Angela Rayner
My two years as shadow education secretary have been interesting times. When I was appointed, I only had one shadow minister, the brilliant Gordon Marsden MP – our further education, higher education and skills spokesperson on the frontbench team. Parliament threw everything it had at us, and we’d often be running past each other to cover urgent questions and Westminster Hall debates.
Two years on, it is a very different picture. We’ve used every parliamentary tactic available and fought on everything from childcare and free school meals, to the abolition of nurses’ bursaries in the NHS.
However, being a member of the shadow cabinet isn’t just about holding the government to account. It’s also about setting out an alternative agenda to the country.
Even before I became an MP, I was passionate about early years care and education because it was a Sure Start centre that changed everything for me.
I’ve been open about my life; child poverty is more than an abstract problem to me. On the council estate where I was raised I was one of the poorest, and my mum struggled to look after us.
When I was 16, pregnant with my first child, it would’ve been easy to think that the direction of my life, and that of my son, was already set. After all, my mum had a difficult life and so did I.
My local Sure Start broke that cycle. I learned that hugging your children, telling them how amazing they are, is so important. Those early childhood interventions meant that my children – and now my grandchildren – will have a very different childhood to mine.
I was lucky to have a Labour government on my side; one which understood that early years support and education was a vital part of education policy.
The tragedy is that now a new generation of children are growing up with a government which isn’t fighting for them.
When we heard earlier this year that children were filling their pockets with food at school meal times to take home, and that a thousand Sure Start centres have been lost, we can see the terrible consequences of austerity.
So it’ll be the priority of the next Labour government to repair that damage, and to build a future where the next generation of children don’t experience what I did.
Our greatest achievement in government, the National Health Service, has thrived for 70 years. Free at the point of delivery, funded by progressive taxation, and serving everyone from cradle to grave, it stands as a symbol of our values of fairness and justice, as well as an institution that continues to change – and save – lives, far beyond those of the Labour politicians who created it.
I want the next Labour government to create something similar in education – the National Education Service (NES).
Early years care and education will play a key role in the NES too, which is why we pledged £5.3bn towards it in our manifesto last year.
What happens in early childhood has a defining impact on human development, affecting everything from educational achievement to economic security and health.
For me, this isn’t just about social mobility, it’s about social justice. Simply measuring the number of working-class kids who get into top universities isn’t enough.
We need to create an education system that allows all to reach their potential, and plays a part in making sure our society succeeds for all its citizens.
That is the vision that Labour’s National Education Service aspires to fulfil.
Angela Rayner is Labour MP for Ashton-under- Lyne and shadow secretary of state for education