Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper explains why she thinks that 21st century education should be more geared towards the workplace.

Education — life long education — now more than ever should be at the heart of what Labour stands for.

It is crucial to our fight against inequality and injustice, but also to a strong modern economy as well.

Yet far from supporting the vital education we need, this government has cut it back, and nowhere more so than in Further Education.

Indeed the sector that is so crucial for the vocational skills and adult education we need has been hardest hit of all.

That has to stop. And Labour has to have the confidence to campaign for an alternative plan.
As Labour leader, my top priorities would be tackling inequality and ensuring we have a curriculum to educate young people for the future.

I want to broaden our vision of a good education to include wellbeing and the whole student, their happiness and confidence.

For me, the most important thing is raising standards, focusing on the quality of teaching and inspiring teachers without being so prescriptive that it inhibits good teachers from being able to use their experience and their ideas.

Everyone should be afforded the same opportunities, no matter what their background – and Labour has championed this.

The Tories began their period in office by cutting the education maintanence allowance and has begun this parliament by cutting another £450m from FE.
We need to work with business to create more apprenticeships.

We had a policy before the election of giving more control over the funding to business in return for more, higher quality apprenticeships, but I think we need to do more to develop that with business directly and to make that a real proposition.

The public sector needs to pull its weight too — as too many Government departments and agencies are very poor at employing apprentices and we need to do better and more public contracts should specify the need to create apprenticeships.
Education has got to be centre stage for us at the next election. From Sure Start right through to lifelong learning: this isn’t just about children and young people. Education in the 21st century has to be more closely linked to the workplace, and has to be a lifelong process.

FE colleges are a deeply undervalued resource in achieving that.

Too often they have been a Cinderella sector with little support and little understanding from policy makers.

In devolving more control over skills, apprenticeships and business support to city and county regions, I want to ensure that we see a revival in our FE sector — playing a real role in ensuring that young people and people of all ages can access high quality flexible education.

It’s time for a vocational revolution so we get rid of the snobbery about the difference between academic and vocational education and properly value the talents of all.