Labour vows to prioritise well rounded education over exams


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Schools should be freed from the “top-down, target-driven, exam-obsessed” culture that is dominating our education system, Tristram Hunt urged today.

Instead, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary argued they should look at helping pupils develop “character, resilience and guts”.

His comments, delivered in a major policy speech at Microsoft’s London headquarters, echoed Eton headmaster Tony Little who recently demanded a move away from exams to “a broader recognition of what a fulfilling education entails”.

Mr Hunt also supported headteachers’ leaders in planning to publish their own independent league tables, which would tell parents how much sport and music and other extra-curricular activities went on in a school.

“I completely understand that education’s purpose is far deeper than producing workers for the labour market,” he said, stating that a country’s economic strength in the 21st century would be defined “more and more by the quality of its human capital”.

He said the UK had to show the same resolve and rigour” towards the “forgotten 50 per cent” who would not go to university as those who achieved high academic success.

“My case today is that if we are to realise our aspirations for an education and economy that truly works for all, we will have to exorcise the demons that have bedevilled 70 years of education reform in this country,” he added.

He called for a new national baccalaureate focusing not just on academic subjects – like the current one introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove – but including high class technical qualifications and “binding all learning routes together whilst at the same time nurturing our young peoples’ character, resilience and broader well-being”.

“I am hopeful that we can begin to chart a course away from the top-down, target-drive, exam-obsessed, managerial performance culture that has permeated our education system,” he said.

He also pledged that under Labour all apprenticeships would last for at least two years and be of equivalent standard to GCSEs.