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‘End education snobbery. There’s no out-of-work brickie or sparkie’

Sep 18, 2018 by

For Angela Rayner, giving every child the best chance is personal – her mother couldn’t read. Now Rayner has a blank sheet to draw up Labour’s ‘NHS for education’

Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, former careworker, trade unionist, mother-of-three and grandmother-of-one, is seated in her office in Westminster, ready and waiting for our interview. She is impeccably well prepared (notes in front of her, hair smoothed back into a high ponytail) and she speaks at a rate of knots as we romp through the education litany of free schools and academies, Sure Start, “off-rolling”, tuition fees and more.

We are meeting because in less than a week she will deliver a speech at the Labour conference in which she is expected to flesh out the party’s plans for a national education service (NES) in England. It will be an important moment for Rayner. While Labour’s promise to abolish tuition fees is likely to be the big vote-winner, its “NHS for education” has quietly become its big education idea – and Jeremy Corbyn has placed it in her hands.

“It’s really exciting for me,” she says, fizzing with enthusiasm. “We’ll immediately end the cuts and start putting money back into the education system. We’ll return to free higher and further education. We’ll sort out public sector pay and restore morale by working with people rather than treating them as the enemy.”

Although she has been in parliament for only three years and in the education role for two, Rayner is on to her third Conservative education secretary. “I started with a blank piece of paper from Jeremy saying: build a national education service. You can either be daunted or you can see it as an incredible opportunity.”

Rayner does not appear to be daunted by much. After a difficult start in life on a council estate in Stockport, the challenges of a political career in Westminster hold little fear for her. Her family was poor, her mother could not read or write, and Rayner left school without qualifications, got pregnant at 16 and left home to raise her son.

While many of her parliamentary peers were enjoying a private/Oxbridge education (29% of today’s MPs went to private school and 24% to Oxbridge), Rayner saw friends die from methadone overdoses and joy-riding accidents. She understands the problems disadvantaged children have accessing education, because she was one of them.

Source: ‘End education snobbery. There’s no out-of-work brickie or sparkie’ | Education | The Guardian

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