Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s education speech in Blackpool.
Before I begin, I’d like to address the devastating floods that we’ve seen across large parts of our country. More than a thousand homes have been evacuated and one woman, Annie Hall, has lost her life. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.
The Conservative government’s response to the floods has been woeful. If this had happened in Surrey instead of Yorkshire and the East Midlands, I think it would have been a very different story.
When terrible floods struck the South in 2014, David Cameron rightly said: “Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed, we will spend it.” This time, Boris Johnson waited five days before calling a COBRA meeting – and only after I wrote to him demanding it.
We now need a guarantee from the government that the Bellwin money is made immediately available to local government. Back in 2014, Cameron vowed: “We will build a more resilient country for the future.” Instead, under the Tories frontline flood response and Environment Agency staff have been slashed by a fifth – and fire and rescue staff by nearly a quarter. So here we are again.
We are in a climate and environment emergency. Funding flood defences and emergency responders is a priority. That’s just common sense. And it’s what a Labour government will deliver.
Many people will know that if Labour is elected exactly one month from today, we will scrap university tuition fees and restore maintenance grants. But that’s just one part of our life-changing plan for real change.
Because we will invest in a National Education Service – free at the point of use – so everyone can learn at every stage of their lives. It’s one of the policies I’m most excited about. Imagine it: a National Education Service that’s there for you as a child; as an adult; and in old age – so that no one is held back.
I see education as an escalator running alongside you throughout life that you can get on and off whenever you want. That’s what Labour’s National Education Service will offer people – free education, as a right for all.
Under our plan, skills and vocational qualifications will be valued the same as university degrees. So if you left school with few GCSEs but now want to learn a new trade, Labour will make education free for you.
If you’ve done the same job for your whole working life and want to change direction, Labour will make education free for you. And if you’ve always wanted to learn new skills but can’t afford the training, Labour will make education free for you.
The National Education Service will allow you to pursue your dreams. But we don’t just benefit from our own education, we benefit from everybody else’s too.
Tomorrow’s jobs are in green and high-tech industries. We need people to have the skills to take on those jobs, breathing new life into communities that have never recovered from the destruction of industry by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives.
We can’t have a 21st-century economy if we only have 20th-century skills. And by ensuring the ultra-rich pay their way, we can provide training to everybody who needs it.
I’d rather give a break to the worker who wants to learn than give a tax break to the billionaire who wants for nothing. That’s the difference between Labour and the Conservatives.
It makes me angry when I see big multinational corporations like Amazon and Google, who rely on a well-educated workforce to make their millions, paying hardly any tax in our country.
The National Education Service will benefit those companies by giving their workers the chance to advance their skills. I simply say it would be nice if those multinationals could pay their share towards it.
And it makes me angry when I hear of schools closing on a Friday because they can’t pay their bills, while the government can afford multi-billion pound tax giveaways to corporations and the richest. It is our children who suffer as a result.
Britain should have the best education service in the world. And what is the best?
- The best is a Sure Start Centre in every community to offer health and welfare advice to new parents.
- The best is 30 hours of free childcare to all 2, 3 and 4 year olds. If you are the parent of a 2 year old, you’ll save £5,000 a year.
- The best is all primary school children learning in classes of fewer than 30.
- The best is a free school meal for every child in primary school – and we’ll put VAT on private school fees to pay for it.
- The best is an education that prepares children for life, not just exams, so we’ll get rid of unnecessary SATs.
- The best is every child being able to learn musical instruments, drama and dance – the things that bring us joy – through our Arts Pupil Premium.
- The best is well-funded schools that are locally accountable – so we’ll end the divisive academy and free schools programme.
- The best is world-leading Further Education, which is so important to working class students.
- And the best is university tuition open to anyone from any background for free, without racking up tens of thousands of pounds in debt.
The best is the National Education Service. You can have the best by voting Labour.
The Tories, on the other hand, want you to be grateful for their offer to reverse some of the cuts to schools made by the Tories. The money they say they’ll put in doesn’t even cover the money they took out.
But their feeble promise is an admission that their cuts are damaging and wrong. So are they going to apologise to all the children who have missed out since 2010?
Children only have one childhood. Are they going to apologise to every child who has had their education damaged because of the Conservatives’ cruel political choices? They would if they cared about our country’s children as much as they care about their rich mates.
Whatever statistics Conservative politicians trot out, if you’re a parent or grandparent you’ll know the real story. Teachers are spending more and more time filling the gaps left by cuts to other services and not spending enough time teaching.
They’re having to buy uniforms and even mattresses for pupils whose parents can’t afford them. I’ve met teachers who tell me some pupils can’t concentrate in lessons due to hunger.
This is 2019 – not the 1930s. Let’s do right by our children. The choice at this election could not be clearer. Labour will end damaging Tory austerity cuts and rebuild all our public services – from education to local government to the NHS.
And by the way, Labour will never send £500m a week of NHS money to big drugs corporations as part of a sell-out toxic deal with Donald Trump. Our NHS is not for sale.
It’s Labour that truly values our public services. The National Education Service will do for education what our NHS does for health.
Because a Labour government will be on your side. We will deliver a fairer Britain that works for the many, not the few. That future is ours to make, together. It’s time for real change.