Tag Archives: education

In full: Baroness Margaret Sharp’s valedictory Lords speech – on relationship between poor education and poverty

Margaret SharpAs Mark told us yesterday, Margaret Sharp has retired form her position as a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. Yesterday she made her valedictory speech in a debate on poverty. She emphasised the importance of improving education, making the curriculum more vocationally orientated, as a tool to get people out of poverty. Here is her speech in full:

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating what has proved to be a very timely debate, given the commitment made by our new Prime Minister yesterday evening. I applaud the work the noble Lord has been doing over such a long time with the Big Issue and with fighting poverty. I congratulate him on his determination to use his time in this Chamber to continue that fight

As noble Lords are aware, this is my last speech in this Chamber. I was introduced in October 1998, so I have served nearly 18 years and, as many noble Lords know, I am leaving because my husband has just celebrated his 85th birthday and I want to spend more time doing things with him: going to plays and concerts, travelling, seeing friends, reading books—not papers—and even perhaps watching television more often. In saying farewell, I want to say what a privilege it has been to be a Member of this Chamber over this time and how much I have valued the companionship and intellectual stimulus that it has given me. I would like to add a special note of thanks to the staff of the House: the clerks, many of whom I have got to know through work on Select Committees; the officers under Black Rod who are for ever helpful, patient and courteous; and the catering staff who have looked after me and my guests so well over the years. Thank you very much.

The subject of today’s debate is to take note of the causes of poverty. I have spent much of my time in this Chamber on issues of education, being a Front-Bench spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats between 2000 and 2010 and pursuing in particular the cause of part-time, further and adult education. It therefore seems appropriate that I should say a few words about education, or perhaps more importantly the lack of education, as a cause of poverty. This becomes increasingly relevant in this world of globalisation, where we observe a growing dichotomy between the well-qualified who hold down professional and managerial jobs and those with low or no educational qualifications who move in and out of low-paid jobs, often on zero-hours contracts and earning the minimum wage. Many call it the “hour- glass economy” and it helps to explain the phenomenon we see these days of poverty among those who are fully employed. As I think two other speakers have mentioned—the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, certainly raised it—it is reckoned that 20% of UK full-time employees are in low-paid jobs and 1.5 million children live in families with working parents who do not earn enough to provide for their basic needs.

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Nick Clegg helps children learn budgeting skills

I’m reading David Laws’ Coalition at the moment and one of the recurring themes is the drama and tribulation around virtually every budget and Autumn Statement. Pulling all the measures together involved tortuous and protracted intrigue as both coalition parties tried to advance their own policy priorities – and the Liberal Democrats usually came out on top.

So it amused me when I saw an article in his local Sheffield newspaper showing Nick practising some different but no less important budgeting skills – helping young children learn financial skills at a primary school in his constituency.

It had been a Lib Dem priority to get some sort of financial skills education on to the curriculum. The Star has the details:

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LibLink: Julian Astle – Education is the route to really “taking back control”

Julian Astle — one time adviser to Paddy Ashdown and more recently a senior Lib Dem policy advisor in the coalition — has just taken up an appointment as Director of Creative Learning and Development at the RSA.

Julian’s been writing over on the RSA blog about the real lessons from the referendum:

The moment Britain leaves the European Single Market will be the economic equivalent of stepping off a travellator onto terra firma – a decelerating jolt, followed by the realisation that you now have to move a lot faster simply to travel at the same pace.

So how, without the propulsion that free access to a market of 500 million consumers provides, can we maintain – or even increase – the speed at which our economy grows?

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What the EU Referendum has taught me

The referendum campaign has reminded or taught us many things about the relationship between us and the public. I am deliberately writing this before the result. There are matters that need a good hard examination. Among them are these:

1.Since tuition fees, we have been all too aware of people’s lack of trust in us; this is now the view held by even more people about all politicians. So when Sadiq Khan rightly points out the untruths in a leaflet, someone who was chosen as an undecided simply said on camera that he is trained to lie.

2.Large numbers of people no longer want to listen not only to us and other politicians, but even to experts; this should worry us greatly.

3. Views are affected by educational experience and level, not just age. I have met less-well-off young people who blame the EU and immigrants for their troubles. (Recent reports about the relative lack of achievement of white boys in our schools from lower backgrounds is worrying for the future.)

4. Education is supposed to broaden people’s outlook, but it needs to do more of this, since good democracy depends on that; narrowly-focussed academic or technical knowledge and skills is not enough.

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What did the EU ever do for us?

 

And so the Brexit campaign tells us how much better things would be if we went it alone.  Well, let me share my own experience as a former Headteacher and bring some perspective and reality into the argument.

Apparently we constantly lose out financially by being in the EU. Not my experience.

My school was a relatively successful rural comprehensive in County Durham. As with many rural schools, we struggled each year to balance our budgets and were certainly not favoured by either central or local government. No Building Schools for the Future, Excellence in Cities or Action Zones funding for us! We were certainly losing out compared to other schools in the area.

With no capital funding available, I turned to Europe and twice successfully bid for funding, to build a Construction Workshop and a Virtual Learning Environment. These were not large sums – €120,000 and €150,000 – but it was money I could not access elsewhere. We ran four Comenius projects and a Youth in Action project with our European partners, averaging €25,000 per project, so bringing in a further €125,000 to the school. And then we also successfully bid for two European Social Fund projects to share our best practice with teachers elsewhere in the EU and this brought in a further €80,000.

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Kirsty Williams on supporting teachers, pupils and students: her vision for Welsh education

Kirsty Williams has been talking to Wales Online about her plans on education secretary. Here are some of the best bits:

On supporting teachers

She used tact and sensitivity, unlike some education secretaries in Whitehall. You are not going to get anything done in schools without getting teachers onside.

“I think there is some excellent practice,” said Ms Williams.

“I think that there are schools and other education institutions that are doing amazing work and children that are having a great education experience, but my concern is that it is not universal.

“There are too many variables between schools – even between schools that find themselves in the same local authority.

“What I want to do is focus on making sure that good practice, that undoubtedly exists within the system in Wales, is shared and adopted by all schools so all of our children, regardless of where they live, have access to the very best education.

“What I have been struck with in recent weeks is that the profession in many areas does not feel valued and I want to raise the status of the teaching profession.

“We are going to be asking a lot of them, it is they that will make the difference to school standards in Wales, not me in an office in Cardiff Bay – so we need to support them to do the job that we expect of them.”

Curriculum reform

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David Laws highlights continuing threat of forced academisation

David Laws is quoted in today’s Independent. The former Schools Minister is discussing a Centre Forum analysis of the Government’s education white paper.

Centre Forum says that the Government’s alleged u-turn will just mean that the process will happen anyway as local authorities are taken out of the picture if it’s not viable to run schools if, for example, a critical mass has converted to academy status.

New analysis of the revised strategy, however, suggests this will have accumulative effect on schools – as more schools are converted, more local authorities will be taken over as a result.

In effect, 100 per cent of schools will still be converted into academies by the year 2020 as planned.

David Laws, Executive Chairman of CentreForum, who published the report, said: “Our initial analysis shows that their proposals for new ‘triggers’ that lead to forced academisation in a local authority will in all likelihood lead to thousands of schools becoming academies as a result.”

The think tank said the analysis was dependent on the Government’s definition of what constitutes as an “underperforming local authority”, however – a concept which has not yet been defined by the department.

“The definitions are vague,” the report noted, “and our own analysis has shown that relatively small changes could have implications for hundreds of schools.”

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