Tag Archives: speeches that got away

The speeches that got away: Investing in further education and learning throughout life 

The Education motion at conference stated  “The UK faces a serious skills deficit”. 

That is an understatement. Take for example what happens when young people fail GCSE Maths and English and move on to sixth form or college. 

When I taught at a general FE College, I remember a group of 17year old girls, who aspired to be nurses. I had to spend time, for example, teaching them quadratic equations when they really needed much more time improving their understanding and application of decimals, percentages, and ratio relevant to their career. 

Force-feeding young people to resit GCSE Maths and English which they have just failed and hated is bad education. Statistically, results show it does not work. On average 25% pass; in Maths this year only 20% passed and can we claim that even these have sufficiently improved, with a pass mark around 20 out of 100, so was it relevant to their career? 

This approach can even be dangerous; on more than one occasion in my lifetime a baby has died because the decimal point in a drug prescription was in the wrong place. 

Our party motion makes clear that young people need to develop their Maths and English in a free course that is suited to their needs.  Functional skills qualifications have this year been improved, so there is no excuse. Colleges at the moment are constrained by strict funding rules. We will give colleges the freedom and resources to judge the best way to improve basic skills for everyone at age 16+. 

In this country skills and ‘vocational’ learning have  not been given the attention they need for decades. Note these points. 

First, the department for Education Skills Index, shows since 2012 the contribution of skills to the nation’s productivity declined by 27%. Second, we have now the lowest on record of adults pursuing any form of education. Third, the new T-level courses due to start in September 2020 look like being under-resourced.  Fourth, the new apprenticeships while welcome are failing at the lower levels; companies who pay the levy have reduced their other training provision. 

So, with all these recent failures to deal with the skills deficit, what does Boris Johnson do ?  He removes the post of Skills Minister. 

This follows a period when Michael Gove distorted the whole Education curriculum by his obsession with academic learning and theoretical testing. Under the veneer of improved exam results, many feel the harmful consequences of that and those at the lower end are not catching up.

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The speeches that got away: Any form of Brexit would damage Ireland, north and south

“With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”

With that carefully crafted phrase in Dublin in 2011 the Queen set the seal on the unprecedented rapprochement between the UK and Ireland embodied in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998. In 30 years of violence over 3000 people perished, many of whom, to use one of the clumsy phrases from our hapless Prime Minister, “died in a ditch”.

A good friend of mine died in a ditch.

The GFA guaranteed Northern Ireland’s place in the UK unless its people by majority decide otherwise. The quid pro quo was absolute equality for all in the North and all-island co-operation to the maximum degree achievable without breaking that constitutional guarantee. This goes far beyond an open border for goods and people. The process is still going on as we speak.

Before David Cameron offered the people of the UK the unilateral right to leave the EU if a majority so wished, he did nothing to consult the government or people of Ireland. Is this not one of her Majesty’s “things we would wish had been done differently”?

And make no mistake – EU membership and the GFA are interlinked. One of the sections of the GFA speaks of “close co-operation between the countries as friendly neighbours and partners in the European Union.” A clause in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 implementing the GFA even outlaws any act or legislation by the Stormont Assembly which conflicts with any EU rule. So this talk of the GFA and EU membership being two separate issues is yet another of so many lies.

While the famous backstop is better than nothing and would be welcomed by virtually all businesses in Northern Ireland the truth is that any form of brexit would seriously damage Ireland North and South. That is one of the reasons why on reflection I support the motion before us now. We must constantly make it clear that

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