Daniel Monaghan Policy Officer 7th July 2023 Blog Public Services Share Tweet Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash Keir Starmer recently launched Labour’s mission to break down barriers to opportunity at every stage. As one of Labour’s 5 key missions heading into the next general election, breaking down barriers to opportunity will be a central part in boosting the life chances and living standards of present and future generations. The next Labour & Co-operative Government faces the challenge of overturning a decade of underinvestment and austerity in our education system. Our society faces increasing global competition and technological change which could hamper the prosperity and opportunity of the next generation. That is why it is essential to ensure that opportunity – whether that be access to high quality childcare, skills development or academic qualifications – is open and available to all. Promoting opportunity and social mobility is integral to the co-operative movement. The essence of co-operation is to promote the shared interests of members – through economic involvement, equity and education. The co-operative movement has a long history in education and training provision, dating back to the days of the Rochdale Pioneers. In the present day, the co-operative model is found in early years, primary, secondary and further education provision – through institutions such as the Co-op Academies Trust (CAT) and Little Pioneers Nurseries. High quality childcare, which is affordable to parents, will be pivotal in helping to boost living standards for generations to come. Early years are the most important part of a child’s development and Labour’s new commitments provide a clear ambition to ensure high quality provision is available to all. We welcome Labour’s commitment to delivering childcare workforce reform – which aims to put an end to endemic staff shortages and turnover by investing in high quality training and recognising the skills of workers. We would like to see this go further, by adding qualified childcare workers to the Skilled Worker Visa list – so that the UK can draw on international talent to fill gaping holes in provision. Labour have made it clear there is a need for the reform of Ofsted in both early years, primary and secondary education. The commitment to having Ofsted ensure parents have a richer understanding of the education their children will receive is an example of putting co-operative values of participation and openness into practice. We believe this should be accompanied by new investment in Ofsted inspector training – so the early years and education sector can benefit from world-leading regulation which delivers the best outcomes for children, parents and education providers. Last year, the Co-operative Party published a new report on co-operatives in education, Steps to Success: Lessons from Co-operatives in Education. Drawing on first hand experience from education providers, it was clear there is greater need for skills development at primary and secondary school level. Labour’s pledge to boost the digital skills of school pupils is vital to preparing them for the future economy and technological change. In order to ensure this is available to all, we believe a new Labour & Co-operative Government should commit to providing all pupils access to digital and technological learning devices – so that no child is ever left behind. Labour’s mission to break down barriers to opportunity represents an exciting and ambitious break from the last decade of stagnation and under investment. The Co-operative Party know the co-operative movement has a vital role to play in delivering future focused reform at every level of education – creating a system which delivers the best for children, parents and workers.