Advertisement
Social Justice

Levelling up: Government ‘recycling old policies’ to distract from Partygate, says Labour

A new levelling up policy to reduce the school attainment gap is notably similar to Tory plans put forward in 2017, experts say.

Ministers have come under fire for “recycling old announcements” as part of their long-awaited levelling up plans.

With the first levelling up white paper set to be published on Wednesday, a number of policies to address regional inequality have already been teased, including proposals to cut the attainment gap between wealthy and poorer areas.

Around 55 “education investment areas” including Hartlepool, Cornwall and County Durham have been identified for extra resources to increase academic standards in schools. Roughly 95 per cent of the targeted areas are outside London and the South East.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

Ministers will give schools retention payments to hold onto the best teachers in subjects where more pupils are struggling, the government said, as well as setting targets for 90 per cent of children to have reached set standards in reading, writing and maths when they leave primary school by 2030.

But opposition MPs and experts warned that there was little distinction between this policy and the “opportunity areas” initiative promised by the Conservative party in 2017, announced by then-education secretary Justine Greening. At the time, the Department for Education pledged a £75m teaching and leadership innovation fund focused on supporting teachers in subjects which were proving more difficult to raise standards in.

“Opportunity areas will help local children get the best start in life, no matter what their background. Ensuring all children can access high-quality education at every stage is critical,” Greening said.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Responding to this week’s levelling up education announcement, Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “The government is desperately trying to distract from the utter chaos at the heart of Downing Street by recycling old announcements, which shows the limits of the Conservatives’ ambition for Britain.

“Under the Conservatives, 40 per cent of young people are leaving education without the qualifications they need to prosper, while rehashed ‘investment areas’ would not be needed if ministers had only given our communities the respect they deserve for the last 11 years.”

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, added: “How do education investment areas differ from opportunity areas? How will we actually raise attainment?”

Officials involved with the levelling up white paper already have doubts about the strength of the government’s plans, i reported earlier this week, with even levelling up secretary Michael Gove said to think it falls short of what was promised.

Stop Mass Homelessness

Help us stop mass homelessness

Unless we act, the UK is facing a homelessness crisis 
this autumn.

“This white paper sets out our blueprint for putting skills, schools and families at the heart of levelling up,” said Nadhim Zahawi, education secretary.

“It focuses on putting great schools in every part of the country, training that sets you up for success in a high-skilled, well-paid career, and ensuring no one misses out on opportunities simply because of where they live or their family background.”

The package also includes £560m to increase young people’s access to clubs and activities and £200m for supporting disadvantaged families, which was already announced in the most recent spending review.

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Children as young as 14 are having to get jobs to provide for their families
Cost of living crisis

Children as young as 14 are having to get jobs to provide for their families

Labour would bring in free breakfast clubs at every primary school in England
Childcare

Labour would bring in free breakfast clubs at every primary school in England

Child poverty in the UK: the definitions, causes and consequences in the cost of living crisis
Child poverty

Child poverty in the UK: the definitions, causes and consequences in the cost of living crisis

Anti-poverty organisations demand 'direct support' for UK's poorest households
Social Justice

Anti-poverty organisations demand 'direct support' for UK's poorest households

Most Popular

Read All
How much will the Queen's funeral cost?
1.

How much will the Queen's funeral cost?

The internet's best reactions as Kwasi Kwarteng cuts taxes and lifts the cap on bankers' bonuses
2.

The internet's best reactions as Kwasi Kwarteng cuts taxes and lifts the cap on bankers' bonuses

From benefit claimants to bankers: Here’s what the mini-budget means for your pay packet
3.

From benefit claimants to bankers: Here’s what the mini-budget means for your pay packet

5 ways anti-homeless architecture is used to exclude people from public spaces
4.

5 ways anti-homeless architecture is used to exclude people from public spaces

To mark our new Arctic Monkeys exclusive interview, we’ve picked out some of our best band and musician interviews from the past, featuring Arctic Monkeys (2018), When Jarvis met Bowie, The Specials, Debbie Harry and more. Sign up to our mailing list to receive your free digital copy.