Building opportunities, knocking down barriers

Published Jun 01, 2017

DBOSkihXoAE9JSE.jpgToday in Westminster, UKIP Education Spokesman David Kurten, outlined UKIP's priorities and agenda for the future of our nation's education system, and you can watch his speech here.

David Kurten said, "Our education system was once the best in the world, and parts of it still are. But parts of it are failing, particularly to young people who need to develop practical and technical skills

"UKIP recognizes this, so that as we achieve Brexit and move on into the freedom which we have won for our nation, we will once again create a truly world class education system where all children and young people can develop according to their own specific aptitudes and talents, where the pursuit of excellence is honoured and no child is held back."

You can read his speech in full below:

Our education system is world–renowned. When people from abroad think of education in the UK, they think of Eton, Westminster, Cambridge and Oxford, and dream of sending their own children to these and other fine educational establishments. However, for many young people, the experience they have of education is a far cry from the bucolic images of our historic institutions.

If you are fortunate enough or wealthy enough to be one of the 7% of children who go to a private school or 3% who go to a grammar school then your life chances are immeasurably enhanced, but this is not the case for everyone.

We do, of course, have many good and outstanding comprehensive schools as well, but the system does not work for everyone. On the other end of the scale 11.5% of recent school leavers aged 16 – 24 are NEETs. These young people have been failed by the system as it is.

For too long, we have followed a ‘one-size fits all’ ideology. But children are not all one size. Children have different abilities, aptitudes and temperaments. While some thrive in comprehensive schools, they are not right for everyone, and they are no longer right for the country.

In PISA tests whch compare the Maths and Science performance of children in different nations, England has sunk further and further down the league table. It is shameful that the country which in many ways created the modern education system of the world is 15th in Science, 22nd in reading and 27th in Maths. We have lower attainment in Maths and Science than China, Estonia, South Korea, Finland and even Vietnam.

This should not be happening and UKIP will change it. If a child is talented in sports or music or art, no-one would disagree that they should not be selected to go to a specialist arts school or conservatoire or sports academy to hone their skills at a very young age. Yet when it comes to academic talent or technical or practical skills, we have been cowed into silence and fearful of suggesting selection to appease the politically correct brigade.

The results are a continuing decline in core academic achievement and the exacerbation of the skills gap which has grown up over the last four decades.

We need to turn back from pursuing the one-size-fits all model for education and embrace a different system which will be good for the the country and good for the individual children. We need to challenge the viewpoint which says that academic schools are up here, and everything else is down there; it is simply not true.

We need to consider that different kinds of schools at secondary level are good for different children with different aptitudes, talents and temperaments: grammar, technical, home, special, independent, church and other faith schools and comprehensive schools as equal – a true diversity in the real and good sense of the word, where there are different streams of education for different children.

Children with an academic aptitude who thrive learning facts an figures and learning to pass exams should be able to go to grammar school. There should be technical schools all over the country for children with an aptitude for practical and technical skills.

Other children, particularly the 11.5% who become NEETs need to leave school with basic personal skills and employability. As a London Assembly member I talk to businesses regularly in London, and employers often say ‘I don’t care what GCSEs they have – just give me someone who turns up on time, looks smart, and can work in a team, etc.’ For these children, allowing them day release from 14 to do to a level 1 Apprenticeship and learning employability would be far better than forcing them through the academic route.

In this, UKIP is the most forward thinking and progressive party which there is on Education.

The Labour party still parrots the same old line that everyone must go through the one-size-fits-all system, and the Conservative party pays lip service to Grammar schools, but despite 7 years in government has so far has not even repealed the ban on new Grammar schools.

In addition, their reliance on free schools to achieve new grammar schools will also not provide the radical change the country needs. We will see a few new grammar schools open in areas which already have them, and the vast majority of the country will be left out.

So what we must do is open grammar schools in every town and city across the country. There is huge demand for them, but despite this 115 out of 151 LEAs in England do not give parents or children this choice.

We also need far more technical schools like UTCs to teach vocational qualifications – an area which has been neglected for too long – we need to give our young people the skills to do things and make things and become a great manufacturing nation once again. Again, there should be technical schools in every town, city and borough in the country.

There is currently a demographic bulge in primary schools which is stretching primary schools to the limit. This baby boom will move up to secondary school level over the next 7 years, so we will need to open at least another 500 secondary schools as the secondary school population is set to increase by 500,000 by 2024.

Now is the perfect time to invest in grammar and technical schools all over the country, and invest in our young people. UKIP will commission a national plan to ensure that there are grammar schools and technical schools in every town, city and borough in the country. We need to look at the whole country and prioritise areas which currently do not have grammar or UTCs or other technical schools.

With our commitment to a national plan for 500 new grammar and technical schools, we can ensure that every one of England’s 151 LEAs will have at least 3 specialised grammar and/or technical schools by 2024.

It is time to ditch the ‘one-size-fits-all’ system which has beset our country for far too long. It is time for an education system where quite simply no child is held back.

Now when it comes to our Universities, they are of course fantastic for the right students, but it the wrong choice for many students who would be better off doing a Higher Apprenticeship and learning a trade. The target from the Blair government of getting 50% of school leavers to do a degree has blighted many young people for whom it is the wrong choice, and who are worse off at the age of 21 than they were at 18. The Universities collect the fees, graduates leave with an average debt of £44,000 pounds of unpayable debt and the taxpayer picks up the bill.

In addition, certain careers which never required a degree before, like nursing, and soon policing as well, have become graduate only professions. This is nonsense. Nursing and policing should be returned to on-the-job vocational training which will get more talent into these careers far earlier, cost the taxpayer far less money and end our dependence on cheap foreign labour to fill wholly unnecessary skills-gaps in these professions.

The HE sector needs to become lean and mean again, focusing teaching on high value academic subjects which are vital to our success as a nation such as STEMM subjects, while funding fewer courses which add little or no value to students or society.

In Medicine for example there are far too few places. In 2016 nearly 7,000 out of 15,000 British applicants did not get a place to study Medicine, most of them highly qualified. This is despite there being over 6,000 vacancies for doctors and 34,000 foreign doctors working in the NHS, and this scenario is replicated across the professions which rely of STEMM graduates.

As a country we must become self-sufficient in doctors again and end our dependence on plundering skilled workers from around the world because we do not train enough of our own skilled workers here. UKIP is committed to increasing the number of places available for British students to study Medicine by 3,000 per year.

To encourage recruitment and retention, student loans of all British graduates in STEMM subjects who work in their field in the UK will have their student loans paid back over the course of the loan while they continue to work in the UK.

This offer will be extended to nurses, midwives and other health professionals work in the NHS. It will also be extended to qualified teachers while they teach in schools in UK.

We also need to ensure that free speech is enshrined as a value in our Universities and freed from the shackles of aggressive political correctness.

The growth of ‘no platforming’ has created far too many adult babies who break down and cry and run to their safe space whenever they hear something that even slightly challenges their worldview. Great thinkers and speakers as diverse as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Peter Tatchell, Germaine Greer, Camilla Paglia, Milo Yiannopoulos, Lauren Southern and Katie Hopkins have been no-platformed in recent months and years.

A free and healthy society allows open and rigorous debate in which all ideas can be heard, tested and held up to public scrutiny. A society which attempts to silence new or differing ideas rather than challenging and rebutting them with intelligence, reason and logic is a dying society.

We must allow students to hear all kinds of ideas regardless of whether they like them or not. There must be no more safe spaces on campus. If students cannot respond in a mature manner when they disagree with an idea, they shouldn’t be at University.

We must ensure that we continue to be a living and developing society by allowing a platform to everyone (provided they do not advocate violence.)

However in our schools, it is necessary to safeguard our children from extremism, and there are two extremes which are targeting our children at the moment.

The first is Islamism. We have spoken about this before, and wherever Islamist ideologies rear their ugly head, we must aquash them and ensure that the Trojan Horse scandal never happens again.

On the other hand, we must protect our children from damaging and confusing fringe ideologies which sexualize children at an early age and confuse their natural development as boys and girls, both in secondary, primary and even pre-schools.

Who would have thought that 5 years ago that it would now be considered politically incorrect to call children boys and girls or parents mothers and fathers, or that there are 2 biological sexes determined at birth and coded in your chromosomes rather than 47 different genders this could be considered a hate crime.

Of course we must continue to teach scientific facts of reproduction, and that your chromosomes determine your biological sex, and the right age for this is 11.

I have seen materials aimed at 7 year olds describing sex acts which are not anything to do with reproduction in graphic detail. This is wrong, as was the call from the NUT to introduce sex  education into nursery schools. 2-year-olds at nursery school can hardly talk. It is absolutely wrong to suggest teaching about gay sex, sex change operations and gender fluidity to 2 year-olds or 4 year-olds in primary school or even 11 year-olds in secondary school.

While countries in Asia are flying ahead of us in academic attainment, and eastern European countries are training their own young people with all the practical and technical skills they need, and Germany is doing both of these things, Britain is confusing our kids by obsessing about genderqueer theory and whether boys should wear girls uniforms. This is nonsense, and we need to focus and lead our young people to what is important – that they have the skills they need to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

In conclusion, our education system was once the best in the world, and parts of it still are. But parts of it are failing, particularly to young people who need to develop practical and technical skills

UKIP recognizes this, so that as we achieve Brexit and move on into the freedom which we have won for our nation, we will once again create a truly world class education system where all children and young people can develop according to their own specific aptitudes and talents, where the pursuit of excellence is honoured and no child is held back.

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