Natalie Perera, Chief Executive at the Education Policy Institute, said: “Labour has identified a number of important issues which need to be addressed in order to both improve outcomes and close the disadvantage gap. We particularly welcome the commitment to improve quality and accessibility in the early years. This chimes with EPI’s own research that around 40% of the disadvantage gap at age 16, is already present at age 5. Labour’s focus on language and communication is also essential for children’s early development.
“Further commitments to increase the number of teachers and improve retention through increased pay and targeted retention payments based on shortage subjects, geography, and levels of disadvantage are also welcome and something that EPI has been calling for.
“Other commitments including reviewing curriculum and assessment and reforming the role of Ofsted also appear to address significant concerns (many of which are reflected in our own data analysis) about the narrowing curriculum and the impact of the current inspection model.
“We also welcome the focus on pupils with Special Educational Needs throughout the opportunity mission. It is critical that these pupils are not just seen as an “afterthought”.
“It is also sensible to review the current Level 3 offer for 16-19 year olds, before taking decisions to scrap many qualifications. We do not, yet, have enough evidence about the impact of the T Level reforms, and so we welcome the commitment to take a more considered approach.
“Overall, Labour’s Opportunity Mission identifies and seeks to tackle some of the key challenges facing our education system, but there needs to be more detail on how some of these ambitions will be funded and delivered. The commitments to radically increase the number of qualified early years workers, teachers, health visitors and mental health support workers, for example, are laudable, but they need to be fully funded.
“Labour must also consider how it will tackle entrenched issues in our schools, such as rising absence rates and a growing disadvantage gap.”