EDUCATION Secretary Justine Greening today reveals her blueprint for Britain to ensure there is genuine “equality of opportunity for the first time” when Britain leaves the European Union.
She used an official visit to her home town of Rotherham to open new facilities at Oakwood High, the comprehensive school that she attended during the strife-torn early 1980s, to set out her vision for the future.
In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, the Cabinet Minister said:
* The Government must do better when it comes to providing young people with the best careers advice;
* Sixteen-year-olds should expect “world-class” technical education if they don’t choose to study A-levels;
* Businesses need to play a greater role in the training of young people.
Describing her job as the “best” and “most important” in the Government, she also said the attainment gap between well-off and less prosperous areas will only close further if there is greater investment in early-years education.
“I want to make sure that when our young people get to 16 that, for the first time, they’ve got proper choices between whether they go on and do the academic route, and go on to university, or the more technical route. If they do the technical route, that has got to be world-class,” said the Minister, whose late father worked for British Steel.
“I want to see our universities continue to do more and more and more to make sure they are open to a brand new generation of people, like me, who were the first in their family to be able to go to uni.” Accepting it was a “tough task”, she added: “I want more than that as well.
“I then want great British companies to play a bigger, better, stronger role in really finding that raw talent that’s out there in young people in our country and then playing their role in developing it.
“Education shouldn’t finish when young people come out of the education system. They should continue to develop once they get into their roles. I know many, many companies focus on this, but I want to see it become the absolute norm that you see your career turbo-charge once you get into the workplace.
“Businesses can play a key role, including here in Rotherham, in helping that happen. For me, there’s the chance of a really new partnership between schools and communities, and schools and businesses, that can be a real ‘win-win’.”
Ms Greening said her school days at Oakwood shaped her views on inequality and injustice. The first Education Secretary to have gone to a comprehensive school, she wants Brexit to be underpinned by social reform.
“I don’t accept anyone should be judged on how they look, what their background is, where they came from, what their sexuality is," she said. “None of that should matter. What matters is who people actually are and what they want to make of themselves,” she added.
“I think the Brexit process is incredibly complex, that’s just a simple fact. We’re doing the equivalent of economically, politically and legally rewiring our country and we’re having to do it in a rapid timescale because we want to get on with the decision that people took to leave.
“It was always going to be tough, it was always going to be complicated.
“What I’m passionate about, and what my job is about, is about socially rewiring our country. That for me is what equality of opportunity is about.
“For me Brexit is the enabler to make sure we can have proper equality of opportunity for the first time.
“That’s the country that’s got to emerge from Brexit Britain.”