The latest National Policy Forum consultation document on ‘Early Years, Education and Skills’ recognises there is much work to be done within the education sector yet seems to miss some key points. Our education system has taken quite a battering over the last few years and Labour must ensure that it addresses all crucial areas.
The consultation document starts by rightly acknowledging the need for quality early years provision. Since 2010 the Tories have closed 1,240 Sure Start Centres despite their promise to protect them. The Tories have also struggled to deliver on their 2015 election promise of 30 hours a week of free childcare. The NPF document asks:
What does a good early years care and education system look like? How can we ensure value for money but also that children have access to the best care possible?
How can we spread excellence in early years education so that every child, regardless of their background, is given the best possible start in life?
Except for the brief period between the final determination of the manifesto and the election at which it is aimed, policy making is always ‘work in progress’, formally reflecting the work of the Policy Commissions and the National Policy Forum (NPF), but in practice including the continuation of past policy (as with Trident, of which more later) and documents, statements and speeches by the Leader in particular, the shadow chancellor and to a lesser extent others.
The recent conference did not develop policy very far, understandably perhaps in view of the referendum and the leadership election, and much of the debate was either about very specific trade union concerns (flexible retirement) or a particular area of policy (mental health). These things are not unimportant, but they were at the expense of what might have been more prolonged debate about Labour’s core economic policies. These areas were of course covered in the debates on Brexit and industrial strategy, as well as those on the NHS, the environment and housing. Continue reading
Meanwhile, back at the policy making process …
There is very little informed debate in the Labour party about education. There is very little informed debate in the Labour party about anything. It is a Party with various groups and individuals pushing for their particular viewpoint but organising informed discussion in which all of these views are fairly laid out for members to consider the alternatives and make up their own minds is just not a part of Labour’s traditions. That needs to change if Labour is to develop (regain?) any sense of a party with radical social objectives. Continue reading
Labour Party members have been invited to participate in the Party’s policy formation leading to Annual Conference 2016. The invitation came from Angela Eagle, Chair of Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF), in an email of 7 April. Links were given to discussion documents for which responses are required by 8 June.
This is an exceptionally short period for organising debate to produce responses. For example in 2014 the initial letter went out on 10 March with responses required by 16 June. What this means is that the period for debate responses has been curtailed by a month compared to 2014. Not only that but because of local and mayoral elections many branches and Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have cancelled meetings in this period. Getting responses in will be difficult.
The left must respond Continue reading
This afternoon, Labour’s national executive (NEC) will discuss under the rather dull heading “NEC Terms of Reference and Committees” an important matter: how much power should lie with its grassroots members. Most NEC members understand that what the rulebook says about the primary purpose of the NEC being to “provide a strategic direction for the party” has been nothing but fiction for the last two decades. Most of them are elected by the party’s membership or affiliates, and they want to play the role to which they were elected.
To understand how the balance of power has changed over time we need to look at the development of a federal party, in which power was distributed amongst its various components – the executive, the trade unions, the leader and the parliamentary party – into the centralised party it became under Blair and Brown. Ironically, the process of concentrating power in the leader started as an unforeseen consequence of electing the leader by a wider franchise, a democractic reform I and many others sought in the late 1970s. It has had the same effect in other parties. Continue reading