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Education sets people free, and knowledge is power

November 4, 2017 2:56 PM
By Layla Moran in Liberal Democrat Newswire

Layla Moran (Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)Liberal Democrat education spokesperson and new MP Layla Moran writes exclusively for Lib Dem Newswire about her approach to her brief.

Education sets people free, and knowledge is power. These well-known phrases have formed the basis for my passion for education all my life. They are the reasons I became a teacher fifteen years ago and again the reason I joined the Liberal Democrat's ten years ago. Now, as an MP and our party's education spokesperson, my passion is further ignited.

The closer I get to government, the more convinced I am that our education system is in vital need of some vision and leadership. We have had nearly three decades of a market-inspired educational landscape. The emphasis on competition between schools has slowly and, in my view, fatally eaten away at the focus on the individual student experience. This is the moment for the Lib Dems to grasp the nettle. To look at the whole system from the bottom up and ask difficult questions about what on earth we are doing to the next generation, and if it is actually the right thing.

The first step we need to take is to make the case to the electorate for why things need to change. One example of an area that has not been addressed by the government is how we prepare for a world that is increasingly being influenced by Artificial Intelligence. The science-geek part of me is actually excited by this prospect but we need to accept that the nature of work is going to change. If robots are taking our jobs, what should the humans do? I argue that our most valuable skills are our ability to engage in complex, emotionally subtle interactions. Creativity and being able to evaluate and question facts should trump rote learning and recall. Our current system, however, is moving is exactly the opposite direction. School funding shortages, workload pressures and the focus on data-driven targets mean these skills, often much harder to measure, are being systematically ignored.

We must also question many of the basic structures in the system. League tables, selection, assessments and Ofsted. Nothing should be off the table. Our guiding question must be, 'how does this help the student?' If it doesn't we then we must then ask, 'so what will?'

Ideas that are already emerging from our work include a renewed emphasis on teacher's professional development and school leadership, a broader curriculum and more pastoral care, and encouragement for schools to cooperate in the interests of the children and not compete for them to up their funding.

We remain in early stages, but it's worth remembering we build on strong foundations. Our party has always been sound in this area, and if we do this right, I believe we can have an impact that will last for generations to come.

I am working with a core group of Parliamentarians who have expertise from across the education sector, and with a Policy Working Group of dedicated party members. But we must also invite the wider party to engage with us. What are your big ideas? What are your fears? If you're a parent what do you really care about? If you're currently a student, what do you wish you'd had? We want to know and we are all ears