• This is an article in our Comment by our Activists series where we hear from our local party members and activists on a wide range of topics. If you’re a member and would like to submit your own article please email it to office@redditchconservatives.org.uk

Tonight after putting my 2 younger children to bed I sat down and read the transcript of The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP’s speech that he delivered virtually earlier on today (Thursday 9th July 2020)

As a mother, education is something I have more than a passing interest in.  My own children’s future are reliant upon the decisions made by people such as Gavin and it is imperative these decisions are the right ones.  Who knows what long term effects the recent school closures will have on our children’s education long term.  How long will it take to bridge the learning gap that was caused by lockdown.  For younger children like my 6 year old he will have many years to catch up on the time he missed out on the classroom where my homeschooling efforts were maybe not as efficient perhaps as a trained professional. 

What about the students though in year 11 and 13 or those finishing college courses? There must surely be some level of anxiety for what’s to come now?  Where in this brave new world will they be headed? Those individuals in a weird kind of limbo where they never got to sit their final exams yet are awaiting results regardless.  I am pleased to say I was filled with a sense of relief when I read about the measures coming into place precisely for those individuals this very August in only 23 days time. a cool £101 million is being provided in support to schools and college leavers so they can take level 2 and 3 courses where there are no employment opportunities available to them. Also in the world of apprenticeships there will be a  boost in cash payment of £2000 for new apprentices hired between 16-24 years old between the 1st August 2020 and the 31st January 2021

This is important not just because it’s an increase in funding but mainly because it is immediate.  The students whose education was the most negatively impacted by this pandemic will benefit from these mitigation steps right now.  There is a glimmer of hope, a plan going forward, it might not be the exact plan they had in their heads in January, but it’s a forward motion and a positive one at that. 

In a time when businesses are still in recovery and cautious about recruitment this scheme will send a clear message to companies that apprenticeships are a viable employment strategy.  I am confident that many businesses will bounce back thanks to Rishi Sunaks bold steps at the beginning of this crisis. I am sure that the chance to train and mould employees from scratch must be a very appealing one and with the boost this makes it a sensible one.

For our young people, getting into an apprenticeship offers the best of both worlds, an income providing independence, responsibility, accountability and maturity whilst still gaining an education and qualifications.

As someone who never went to university I agree wholeheartedly with Gavin that we need to stop seeing university education as the only path to being taken seriously in a career.  The statistics are speaking for themselves.  34% of graduates are in non graduate jobs. Then when we look at where our skills shortages are, it’s in areas such as manufacturing and construction, precisely the areas we are not teaching.  Therefore it is right we adjust our thinking and have an industry led education system where we are training people up for the jobs that need fulfilling.  I believe having courses led and designed by specialists working in the industry will ensure we don’t end up with outdated obsolete courses which end up not being worth the paper they’re printed on and unfortunately a waste of some poor individuals’ time in college.

I for one think Gavin speaks a lot of sense and I welcome his improvements to further education instead of the constant mantra of university university repeat infinitum.  In a town like Redditch it would be fantastic to see an increase in apprenticeships and training opportunities in further education so that our younger generation can push back into work post lockdown helping to bring our town out of the crisis into recovery successfully.

If you would like to read the full transcript of the speech please go to https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/education-secretary-fe-speech-with-social-market-foundation