Last month, Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, was appointed as the new shadow Minister for Schools. This came after Margaret Greenwood resigned the position to enable her to vote against the bill known as the “spycops” bill. Wes Streeting has only held the position for just under a month, however he has long been an active voice within education. He has stated himself that education is his number one passion. This is clear to see when you look back at his career path, he has held positions with key education organisations including UCAS, the Higher Education Academy and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. He also served as both President of the National Union of Students and as Head of Education at Stonewall, where he led their ‘Education for All’ campaign which aimed to tackle homophobia in schools. All of which makes him more than qualified for his new role.
First and foremost, he has long been an advocate of education equity, which strikes at the heart of Labour’s education policy. He is also an ardent supporter of teachers, which is unsurprising given that his own sister is a teacher herself. In a recent interview with Tes, he stated that his driving mission politically, had always been to tackle educational disadvantage.
Even prior to taking the role of shadow schools minister, he drew on his own experience of receiving free school meals (FSM) to defend and advocate for Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign over the summer holidays, and has of course recently supported Rashford’s most recent FSM campaign.
It is clear he will be putting pressure on this government to ensure pupils get all the support they need throughout the pandemic. He has already been very vocal on extending FSM into the school holidays, additional catch-up support and providing schools with the resources they need to stay open safely, as well as IT resources to ensure pupils who cannot afford digital equipment will be provided with what they need to keep up their learning should they need to isolate.
Longer term, he is likely to be the leading voice in calling for greater funding for schools and an enthusiastic advocate for bolstering the state school system. In the same vein, he is likely to be critical of Grammar Schools and Independent Schools. Whilst he hasn’t been highly vocal on these issues, he has stated his concerns regarding tax exemptions for private schools and his opposition to the building of new Grammar Schools.
All in all, he is a very welcome addition to the shadow education team and will likely be a dedicated defender of the needs of teachers and disadvantaged pupils, at a time when the country is in desperate need of such a voice.
Image via UK Parliament; Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)