Lib Dems must remain the party of education
Building an education system that works for everyone requires some big thinking – and the Liberal Democrats can lead the way, writes Layla Moran
I remember vividly early on in my teaching career I went to a staff meeting at my new school. I arrived in the third term and exams were approaching. I was horrified to see, on the wall, a list. Every child was listed. And every child had been colour coded. Green for ‘they are on track to getting 5 good GCSEs’, yellow for ‘borderline’ and red were essentially ‘no chance’. We were told in no uncertain terms to focus on the yellows. And I remember thinking how wrong this was. I pride myself on being the teacher that turns kids from hating maths to, well if not loving it, at least tolerating it. So the idea I was being encouraged to give up on them in any way I found appalling. And from there sparked a small flame which grew and grew.
I then went on to do a master’s in comparative education and discovered my passion for tackling educational inequality. That was ten years ago. It inspired me to join the Lib Dems because we had the best policy in education when compared to research. And I decided in that moment that if I was going to change things I was going to stand to be an MP and this would be my issue.
Fast forward ten years, It is a huge honour to now be giving a speech at conference as education spokesperson, and I am looking forward to meeting some of our party’s array of excellent teachers, governors, parents, students and educational professionals over the next few days at conference.
My vision is simple. And has by and large not changed from when I started teaching. That every child, no matter their background, can make the most out of life.
And whilst education policy often focuses on the voices of employers, teachers and parents, we must do more to listen to and represent the voices of children. Choice of schools for parents is all very well, but meanwhile subject choices in schools are diminishing due to budget cuts. When seen through the lens of the student, the choice agenda in my eyes is totally focusing on the wrong thing. By putting the children and learners at heart of policy, I believe we can make better policy.
Of course, that’s not to say that I have forgotten about teachers. The Liberal Democrats have always been a party that trust teachers to get on with the job. We are committed to every child, in all schools, being taught by a qualified teacher – and to make sure that any future curriculum changes are led by the profession. I am particularly keen to push our election commitment to fund effective continuous professional development. I also want to do more to help attract, develop and retain effective school governors.
Since my election in June I have been doing my bit to provide a strong Liberal Democrat voice on education and young people in Parliament. Just recently I used my first PMQ to ask the prime minister to apologise for under-funding the government’s 30 hours childcare policy to such an extent that it is either not available to parents, or isn’t free.
From fighting for a fair funding settlement for our schools to tackling the teacher recruitment and retention crisis – it has been a busy few months holding the government’s feet to the fire.
Yet, crucially, as a party we need to go beyond simply reacting to the policies and developments of the day. We need some serious big thinking about our education system and the future of our country. Continuing to tinker around the edges just won’t cut it.
If information is power, it is our mission as Liberal Democrats to make sure that everyone – through education – has access to the information and opportunities to realise their potential.
I know that our party has the skills, ideas and desire to really lead the way and continue our mantle as the party of education. With your help, we can make it happen.
Layla Moran is MP for Oxford West and Abingdon