Labour has selected a former education secretary as one of three new skills advisers to help bridge attainment gaps between different areas of the country.
David Blunkett will sit on a council of skills advisers with former Institute for Apprenticeships shadow chief executive Rachel Sandby-Thomas and IVF company chief executive Praful Nargund.
Announcing it at the Confederation of British Industry annual conference today, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the council will “recommend the change we need to ensure everyone leaves education job ready and life ready”.
Low-achieving young people could ‘flourish’ with technical training, Labour says
Labour analysis of government attainment data has shown young people in Hull were nearly half as likely to achieve a level 3 qualification by age 19 as young people in Kensington, London in 2019/20 – 40 per cent to 76 per cent.
On a regional basis, a 19-year-old in London was 31 per cent more like to achieve a level 3 qualification by age 19 compared to a young person in the North East that year.
“We don’t value technical and vocational skills nearly enough,” Starmer told the conference.
Forty per cent of young people left education in 2019-20 without a level 3 qualification and “a lot of these students could really flourish if they received a high-quality technical training,” he continued.
A spokesperson added that the Conservatives’ “failure to deliver the skills and qualifications young people in every region need makes a mockery of the promise to spread opportunity”.
Blunkett ran the Department for Education from 1997 to 2001 during Tony Blair’s New Labour government.
After her time at the IfA (now the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education), Sandby-Thomas became registrar for the University of Warwick. She previously served as the director general for enterprise and skills at the then-Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Nargund is chief executive of CREATE Fertility, an IVF company and has won a number of business and entrepreneurial awards from The Spectator magazine, The Daily Telegraph newspapers, among others.
‘Nothing more important than spreading what works’
The party’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said “far too many” young people are being “let down by a Conservative government that’s living in the past”.
She is “looking forward” to working with the skills advisers, who will be touring the country with Green to meet with employers, educators, parents and young people to discuss what changes ought to be made to the skills system.
Lord Blunkett said he was “very pleased to be able to continue contributing to the critical debate about how we modernise and reform the lifelong learning journey from schools through to progression in work”.
Earlier this year, he was announced as part of an expert panel, commissioned by awarding body Pearson, steering research into the future of assessments for people aged 14 to 19.
“Nothing can be more important,” he said, “than spreading what works, embedding high-quality and inspirational teaching and learning, and adapting a curriculum that provides motivation to young people at every stage, and reassurance to employers that they will have literate, numerate, creative and responsive employees for the future”.