Closing the Divide: Can Education ever be fair for all? A pre-election debate on solving educational inequality between Nicky Morgan, Tristram Hunt and David Laws, hosted by The Times Red Box and The Fair Education Alliance and supported by The News Academy
The Fair Education Alliance and Times Red Box hosted a pre-election debate on thursday 16 April 2015 between the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour spokespeople for education, Nicky Morgan, David Laws, and Tristram Hunt, on the topic ‘Closing the divide: Can education ever be fair for all?’
The debate was supported by the News Academy, and held at News UK’s head office in London Bridge. It was chaired by Times columnist and interviewer Alice Thomson, and was attended by members of the education community and the Fair Education Alliance, along with aspiring young journalists from the News Academy.
The evening began with opening statements from all three spokespeople, followed by a lively and wide-ranging debate on the education landscape in the UK, with a particular focus on social mobility. Topics covered included Early Years education, class sizes and school place shortages, and the role of independent schools in the state sector.
All three spokespeople were united in expressing support for the Fair Education Alliance and its goal of bridging the gap in educational attainments between children from poor backgrounds and their wealthier peers, but they each sketched out different visions for how their parties would achieve this.
When asked why she supports the Fair Education Alliance, Nicky Morgan told us, “Because I think that it’s doing great work in pointing out the inequalities that we still see in our education system, but also setting out things like literacy and numeracy and other policies which will make a huge difference, and which the Conservative party absolutely subscribes to in terms of getting the basics right early on, so that all children achieve the most and make the most of their potential.”
David Laws said “(The Fair Education Alliance) is drawing attention to the biggest scar on the face on English education, which is the massive attainment gap between young people from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s completely unacceptable that we have almost two-thirds of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who don’t achieve the modest benchmark levels that we set, for example at the end of Key Stage 4 – we’ve got to ensure that those young people have a chance to do well in education, and well in life.”
Tristram Hunt said, “I support the Fair Education Alliance because the purpose of education is to deliver social mobility and social justice, and in this country at the moment we’re seeing the attainment gap between children on Free School Meals and non-Free School Meals growing, and we have to deal with that at root, which means beginning with education.”