Parliament is on its halfterm break, but I seem to have spent the past few days talking a lot to schools and students, even though I’m assuming many of them are also on halfterm!
A particular shoutout to students at Urmston Grammar (who spoke to me last Friday). They told me about a really impressive project they have underway to look at introducing Black history and culture into their curriculum. We had such an interesting discussion about why this is important, they described their research into aspects of Black history that they (and I) hadn’t previously been aware of, and we swapped reading lists. This is an issue that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit in my role as shadow secretary of state for education, and it was a really valuable discussion for me. Thanks very much to the students and staff for such a stimulating conversation.
This week, I met university students in West Yorkshire, and attended a roundtable on student mental health. University students are under a lot of pressure, many haven’t been able to return to campus and are struggling with remote learning, some are worried about completing their degrees this summer, and others are still paying rent for their accommodation even though they’ve been told they can’t return. It’s a very worrying time for them.
Yesterday, Keir Starmer delivered an important speech in which he set out just set out his vision of a new chapter for Britain’s economy. As we approach the chancellor’s budget in early March, and the prime minister’s expected announcement about the roadmap to lifting the lockdown restrictions, Keir warned that there can be no return to business as usual. As we emerge from the pandemic, this must now be a moment to think again about the country that we want to be.
Keir announced that Labour would introduce British Recovery Bonds to give households a stake in our country’s future and a role in creating the infrastructure of tomorrow, and would invest in a new generation of British entrepreneurs by providing start-up loans for 100,000 businesses, making sure support and opportunity is spread across the country.
Personally, I was delighted to hear him place children and young people at the centre of his speech. He talked about the importance of a world class education for all, strategies to tackle inequalities from birth, and investing in skills for the jobs of the future. It was an inspiring and hopeful speech.