Education & Family

Vocational training a priority for Labour, says Hunt

Tristram Hunt Image copyright PA
Image caption Tristram Hunt said Labour's first 100 days in power would include an Education Bill

Labour would lay an education bill before Parliament within a hundred days in power, the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt has said.

The focus would be vocational training and apprenticeship reforms, Mr Hunt told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference.

Mr Hunt said Labour plans for far-reaching reform to Ofsted would not require primary legislation.

However, he said, inspections needed to "evolve and change".

Mr Hunt told the conference in Liverpool that raising pupil achievement requires a "peer review" inspection system, led by heads and teachers.

'Progressive force'

Mr Hunt said Labour would continue to work with Ofsted's current chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw whose impact on the education system he said had been transformative. "He is the head teacher's head teacher."

The Labour education spokesman said he backed plans for reform put forward by Ofsted's national director for schools, Sean Harford, in a speech to head teachers earlier this month.

Mr Hunt said there was no doubt in his mind that Ofsted "has been an extraordinarily progressive force for improving this country's educational outcomes and spreading equal opportunity to areas of historic disadvantage".

But he added that there was a danger that the inspection system "may have reached the tipping point".

"The moment when our inspection system begins to choke something far more precious."

He said he feared the "joy, wonder and beauty of schooling" risked being buried in an "avalanche of bureaucracy".

"So whilst I believe Ofsted has been a vehicle for progress in our education system, it too must surely evolve," he said.

"Above all what I really want to see is an inspectorate that carries the full confidence of the profession, parents and business.

"Ofsted needs to move towards a supportive, light-touch, profession-led, centrally moderated, peer review system of inspection.

"And an incoming Labour government will support this pathway to reform."

Mr Hunt said the big question for the next five years would be how to deliver the basics of education but also inculcate creativity, innovation and 21st Century skills needed by individuals and the economy.

"Without far-reaching reform of inspection that is something I do not think we will be able to achieve."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said "education is on the front page of our manifesto and should be an immediate priority in the next parliament".

"We would take steps to protect education budgets, including nurseries, schools and colleges.

"We would give every child the right to be taught by a qualified teacher, and ensure proper oversight and support for schools that need improvement."


ATL leader Mary Bousted said her union had already made clear that Ofsted's current inspection regime needed to change.

"ATL has proposed a new form of local inspection led by expert professionals with quality assurance provided by a national body.

"Children will benefit from an accountability system that creates less pressure and less pointless work for their teachers but fosters innovation and collaboration."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he agreed a new inspection system was needed.

"Currently schools and colleges feel under pressure to conform to what they believe inspectors want to see.

"We would like to see a reformed inspection system which focuses on outcomes rather than attempting to inspect every detail of a schools operation."

Mr Lightman welcomed that Ofsted had already begun to make some moves in this direction.

"School leaders have a key role to play in a reformed system, sharing with inspectors their own rigorous self-evaluation of their school's performance and joining inspection teams as trained inspectors," said Mr Lightman.

Related Topics