Tristram Hunt is on a crusade — to find Labour an education strategy. In today’s Daily Mirror, the new shadow education secretary takes a punt by offering up some fresh ideas, including a pledge to bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 19 year olds in further education. When it was canned in 2011, the EMA scheme had an annual budget of £560 million so how would Labour fund its return? By cutting back winter fuel allowance from rich pensioners:
‘Mr Hunt also wants to bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance to help teenagers from the poorest backgrounds stay in education. This could be paid for by stripping the wealthiest pensioners of the winter fuel allowance. Mr Hunt says: “A bit of rebalancing towards young people wouldn’t go amiss.’
However, the sums don’t add up. The most recent estimates from the Treasury suggest that withdrawing ‘winter fuel allowance from pensioners paying the top rates of tax’ would save £105 million. That leaves a nice £455 million black hole.
While the EMA policy differentiates Hunt from the government, the shadow education secretary also appears keen to distance himself from the teaching unions. Elsewhere in the interview, he tackles the tricky issue of dealing with bad teachers:
‘A bad teacher can damage kids’ life chances exponentially and one in a school with disadvantaged pupils has an even worse impact. So there’s no room for allowing a failure of teaching when it comes to disadvantaged teaching. The best heads know that and they have the powers to remove teachers’
As Isabel explained recently, Labour often struggles to stand up to the very vocal teaching unions on education reform. But Hunt appears to have decided not to circle around these issues. Perhaps he’s up for a fight in a way his predecessor wasn’t.
Hunt also finds common ground with the Education Secretary on restoring rigour and discipline to classrooms (Gove said last month we need to ‘stop using classroom gimmicks’):
‘He also appears to have little truck with trendy teaching methods and says children from troubled backgrounds need a “secure learning environment” and “discipline.” Mr Hunt adds: “There’s no compromise on attendance and punctuality, and there shouldn’t be any compromise on manners, respect for others and bullying.” Nor will Labour “give an inch” on ensuring “we have absolute rigour in literacy and numeracy”.’
Like sacking teachers, the ‘trendy’ teaching methods Hunt lambasts are also popular with the unions. We’ll see how long this commitment to taking on what Gove calls ‘the Blob’ lasts.Tags: Education, EMA, Labour, Tristram Hunt, UK politics