LibLink: David Laws: George Osborne needs to prove his cuts won’t stall improvement in education

As Schools Minister, David Laws introduced the Pupil Premium, extra money for disadvantaged kids in school to help close the attainment gap.

He has written for the Independent to say that the Government needs to do more to ensure that people have a route out of poverty:

The Government also needs a new drive to raise educational standards, and to keep the focus on improving attainment for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – those who are much more likely to end up in poverty and on benefits. We are not going to address poverty and create opportunity while 60 per cent of young people from poor households fail even to achieve the old and unambitious target to secure five GCSEs at C grade or higher, including English and Maths. This figure is a national disgrace.

The last Government had a strong record on education – with the introduction of the Pupil Premium, swift action to tackle failing schools, and the clean- up of English’s discredited qualifications system. But there is nothing at all to be complacent about. If the country’s main anti-poverty and pro-opportunity strategy is now to rely on education and work, then we have got to do an awful lot more and more intelligently

And there are now significant risks of educational improvement stalling. The Government’s new 30 hour childcare offer deliberately excludes some of our most disadvantaged children, who need relatively more help, of higher quality, and not less. Under the Government’s plan, the poorest children will only receive half of the early years entitlement of the rich. What sense does this make, if boosting opportunity for all is the aim?

And there are other issues. While some academies are doing quite brilliantly, as many as a third are not doing well enough, and we have a shortage of new, quality, sponsors.

We now need a new drive to raise the country’s educational ambitions, improve the quality of early years education, attract and retain good teachers and develop the next generation of leaders, ensure that academies policy is driven by a focus on quality and not just numbers, and do more to spread outstanding practice from 4,000 schools to all 24,000.

You can read his article here.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary in print, on air or online.

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in LibLink.


  • Three cheers for John Marriott !!!!!

    As a former Head of three schools, I couldn’t agree more on everything you say, John. The Academies programme has given access to all sorts of odd organisations, reduced democratic accountability and destroyed inter-school co-operation which provided such mutual support in the days when I was a Head. What on earth carpet store owners have to do with education escapes me.

    A legitimate question now to Mr Laws would be how he equates his ‘support’ for education with his Orange book notion of reducing public spending to 35% of GDP. Which other areas are you going to cut Mr Laws ?

    I have slogged and worked for this party since the early sixties as a foot soldier, as a Councillor on four local authorities (including Cabinet member for Social work), and as a parliamentary candidate in North Yorkshire. The parlous state to which I now see the party reduced to makes me extremely angry…. Much of that parlous state was the result of the activities of Mr Laws and his Orange Book tendency chums. They have effectively destroyed the role and functions of local government….. and betrayed one of the party’s natural bases of support.

    I would urge Tim Farron to do some private polling of local government employees (what’s left of them) in Cumbria and North Yorkshire to find out why they left the party. When I stood in Richmond I polled 28% – this time in May it was 6%. – There is also plenty of food for thought in the Yeovil constituency.

  • I can see the media, politicians and others queueing up next summer when the Key Stage 2 SATS results are published.
    This evening I had an ‘interesting’ time being brought up to speed on just how far the line has moved (and is still moving) and hence the huge step in learning Year 6 pupils are going to have to make this year – or rather in the next 6~7 months. Reading between the lines, I can see schools are deeply concerned about both the teaching to the new (raised) level and pupils ability to undertake the work, so there is a degree of expectation setting going on, namely don’t be surprised if marks are down.

    Naturally, come next summer the media et al won’t be interested in why the results are poor, just that they are poor and hence this means this government is at fault…

  • “The Government’s new 30 hour childcare offer deliberately excludes some of our most disadvantaged children, who need relatively more help, of higher quality, and not less.”

    A potential clarification (as I’ve not read the full details) concerning the entitlement to 30 hours instead of the universal entitlement of 15 hours.

    ” the definition of “working” has been determined to include: working parents with children aged three and four; where parents are working part time or full time, the only requirement is that each parent is working the equivalent of eight hours per week, which is the same threshold as the tax-free childcare scheme; the entitlement can be accessed by parents who are employed or self-employed; and lone parents who are working to support their families.”
    [Source: ]

    I can see arguments for both sides on this, but fundamentally it seems the 30 hours is linked to the parent(s) working/not-working rather than the child’s needs – which was the fundamental underpinning the universal 15 hour entitlement. I suspect that the government see’s the additional 15 hours as a work incentive.

    But fundamentally I agree we need to get quality early years education to be the norm for all children regardless of home circumstances, as this creates the pupils who will help feed improvements further up the system.

  • Peter Watson 12th Nov '15 - 12:31pm

    Jean Evans ” what’s most lacking is anyone whose policy is based on the experience of the current practitioners.”
    This certainly rings true.
    Admittedly as a parent not a teacher, I am pleasantly surprised by how many current and former teachers have “outed” themselves in this short thread. I always had the biased and stereotypical impression that the Lib Dems were the party for teachers and for education. Consequently I was surprised and disappointed when I started visiting this site over the last 5 years and found that Julian Critchley and Helen Tedcastle appeared to be the only openly practising teachers contributing to discussions (though they did so brilliantly and usually against the party line).
    It certainly felt like the party’s education policy was driven by a combination of worthy social and (perhaps less worthy) free-market priorities rather than educational ones. Indeed, although I disagreed with his policies, Michael Gove did seem to be more motivated than the Lib Dems by wanting to improve children’s education.

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Nov '15 - 8:51pm

    David Raw 11th Nov ’15 – 8:08pm
    Well said David.

    I was shocked to see the work of the relaunched independent CentreForum is now endorsed by such well known liberals as David Cameron, Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan and Lord Adonis. A far cry from Richard Wainwright’s Centre for Reform.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    In NATO's on words, "NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means." (
  • David Blake
    I've just watched today's Politics Live. Yet again it's had a Conservative candidate (former MP) and a former Conservative adviser on a 4 person panel. They s...
  • John Waller
    @Joseph “The purpose of NATO is the defense of Europe”. Yes, so why does Stoltenberg want a NATO office in Tokyo. “Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only a so...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Martin Gray, "Unless that right is reciprocated why would should any Greek national residing in the UK be given the same right ?" It's probab...
  • Simon Banks
    Like Mark, I remember 2010. What struck me about that, was that once Cleggmania had given us a big boost, we seemed to have no strategy to exploit it. If there ...