Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said the Government’s policies were “devoid of ideas”.
Speaking at the National Education Union’s annual conference in Bournemouth on Tuesday, Ms Phillipson said the Government’s Schools White Paper and Send (special educational needs and disabilities) Review, published in March, “signalled” the Department for Education was “out of ideas”.
She said it included a “commitment to teach the hours most schools already do”, referring to the White Paper’s proposal for a minimum school week length of 32.5 hours.
And she added that it committed to “support kids falling behind as teachers already do”, in reference to the paper’s “parent pledge” for all pupils falling behind in maths and English to receive extra help.
Ms Phillipson said the paper included “no plan” or means of delivery to achieve these proposals or the new benchmark for 90% of primary school pupils to meet expected standards in literacy and numeracy.
She said there had been “silence” on issues such as disadvantage and improving morale within the profession.
Ms Phillipson said that former Government education catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins had “resigned in despair” having called for a pandemic recovery fund of £15 billion, which was rejected by the Treasury.
“The Chancellor told us last summer the Government had ‘maxed out’ on supporting children’s learning,” she said.
“It speaks volumes about the Chancellor’s vision for our country that, faced with the generational challenge of securing our children’s future, he used a metaphor about a personal credit card to dodge the unprecedented responsibility he faced,” she said.
Ms Phillipson added that during the pandemic, pupils had faced “long waits” to get laptops, tablets and equipment that they needed, and had to face “last-minute changes to exams and even to grades”.
She added that “now was not the time to end free testing” following the Government’s decision to end free lateral flow Covid tests for school staff and pupils from April 1, and that society needed to be “alert to the risk of rising infections”.
She said that under a Labour government she would introduce breakfast clubs for every pupil, alongside extra-curricular activities, and boost investment in early years provision.
Ms Phillipson said that with “energy prices soaring” and “Universal Credit support slashed” that “issues of attainment, behaviour and attendance don’t start and stop at the school gate”.
“Supporting children at school is not a responsibility that stops when children get home,” she said.
She said that the Government was “out of vision” and that the “hollow White Paper of structures, hours and targets” was an example of how the Government “treated our children as an afterthought”.