The Guardian reports that the education secretary, Justine Greening, has accused Labour of offering nothing but “money and slogans” to tackle schools standards, as she announces a national strategy aimed at closing the attainment gap between rich and poor children.
Greening will use a speech on Thursday to set out measures including £50m for schools to open new nursery places.
“Talent is spread evenly across our country, but opportunity isn’t,” she told the Guardian. “At each stage of a child and young person’s life, there are gaps that open up, and we need to make sure that we stop that.”
Alongside the nursery funding, policies to be announced by Greening include £23m for a “future talent fund”, targeted at bright students from poorer backgrounds, and closer cooperation with businesses in providing apprenticeships and drawing up technical qualifications.
The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, who has repeatedly pressed the government over cuts to early-years provision, said that “despite the rhetoric from the government, it is the Tories who are responsible for setting back a generation of young people. Ministers have slashed funding for Sure Start, cut school budgets by £2.7bn, imposed real-terms cuts on teachers’ pay and abolished the educational maintenance allowance, which has made it harder for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to stay in education.”
One of the ambitions set out in the new strategy is to close the “language gap” that means some children arrive at school less prepared for education.
“We know some children turn up at reception, they’re already behind, and they can’t make the best of their school years,” Greening said. “They can’t understand as well and they can’t articulate as well when they want to communicate with their teacher. And we know that they go on to do far worse in their GCSEs because of that. They go on to have lower opportunities post-16 because of that; they go on to have much more restrictive and worse career options because of that.”
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