I want to congratulate the Commission for its work and, I hope, for setting the direction of a new journey for Doncaster.
A journey that will take this and future generations of children and young people to greater success.
I speak to you, not just as a Member of Parliament. But as a parent, with three children who attended Doncaster schools I have been a parent at Sprotbrough Copley, Ridgewood and Hall Cross.
My children are now grown up and writing their own story – in London, Rome and Sydney.
My children all assumed they would follow in their parents’ footsteps and go to university. That is not why I am passionate about education. It is because I was the first of my family to see the inside of a University. A family where only one of three children stayed on at school beyond 16.
My teachers, my schools and my university changed my life; and gave me the confidence to shape my future.
My excitement about the work of this Commission is because education does change lives, raises aspirations, ingrains skills and self-confidence. Education creates new horizons.
The second reason I am excited is because we need to change Doncaster’s story. None of us like to talk about failure. It is so much better to talk about success. But I recall, attending secondary school awards evenings; to find a third of the pupils listed didn’t show up Because they didn’t have a piece of paper worth taking home.
Eleven years of state education – and nothing to show for it. It has been the story for too many. We have to change that story.
Change on this scale cannot be realised without real ambition. In our Doncaster future, we cannot have children bored and disruptive because they cannot read or cope with the syllabus. And we cannot have children bored because they have completed the task well ahead of the rest of the class.
Mediocrity cannot be our goal. Our ambition must be excellence. No child left behind, every child stretched.
I got involved in politics when I was a teenager, because I wanted to change the world.I still do.
But I know that changing the world begins by changing what is on our doorstep; what happens in our neighbourhood; what happens in our school.
And the reason we want to do that is to change the prospects and life chances of every child who is not blessed with parents who read to them every night; the child who isn’t surrounded by books in the home; the child whose parents may not be literate.
The child who starts nursery, if they go at all, 18months behind the development of the three year olds they meet. So this plan cannot overlook the importance of early years.
And we must also be aware that for some of our older children, this report comes too late to change the future for the short time they have left within the education system. Which is why we must embrace the Commission’s idea of “whole life education.”
We must create a Doncaster where you get a second chance, and a third, to change your life. To add a skill. To study something you missed out on earlier in life. To learn while you work.
Doncaster’s future cannot be only low skilled, living wage jobs. And we cannot have our workforce unable to get the skilled jobs, because they lack the skills of a modern workforce.
I want Doncaster to embrace life-long learning. I want a Doncaster that is a second chance society. I want a Doncaster that is never happy with second best.
And that’s where the people in this room and many beyond; become so important. You are the change makers. We want this Commission to succeed, because we want all of our schools to be better at changing lives and opening doors.
Yes, it will mean supporting schools; and challenging school leaders. Attracting and retaining great teachers. It will involve learning from the best. Spreading that knowledge. That example of what works. That experience of what inspires.
I have one final request of the Commission. I welcome the report and its 30 recommendations. Many of the proposals are good; and worthy.
But Ann, and your fellow Commissioners before you leave us, I want you to tell those who will drive this strategy, the five or six recommendations that will really create change and really make a difference. I am sure every proposal has merit. But some will have a modest impact. Some will be huge.
Within this report are a handful of big ideas that will change the nature of education in this borough. And I can’t wait for us to take the first steps on that journey.