How I will transform school standards – Nadhim Zahawi

WITH A name like Zahawi I can’t claim that my ancestors fought at the Battle of Hastings. I was born in Baghdad, in Saddam’s Iraq and grew up there until my parents fled when I was 11.

What should be the priorities of Nadhim Zahawi, the new Education Secretary?
What should be the priorities of Nadhim Zahawi, the new Education Secretary?

They arrived in this country with almost nothing. But they believed in the limitless power of education to unlock opportunity. They passed that belief on to me.

At the age of 11 I was sat at the back of a classroom unable to speak a word of English. But with the support and guidance of my teachers I began to speak the language, think in the language and, most importantly of all, read the language.

This was Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi addressing the Tory party conference.

Those kind, patient, dedicated teachers threw open the doors of my mind. My own experience has formed what I believe about education. Talent and potential exist in all corners of our country. But that great untapped resource needs unlocking.

Being able to read unlocks the entire curriculum. Children who are behind in language development at age five are six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11.

This was Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi addressing the Tory party conference.

And maths achievement is an important driver in later outcomes. A one grade improvement in GCSE mathematics is associated with an estimated increase of £14,500 in additional lifetime earnings.

I promise you that I will be led by evidence in the decisions that I take. We will relentlessly focus on what works. And we will irrevocably improve children’s futures and the future of this country.

Literacy and numeracy are the foundation of everything. Ensuring that our children recover what they lost during the pandemic is a moral imperative for this government.

We are delivering up to six million packages of tutoring in schools this parliament. Literacy specialists from our English Hubs are currently delivering intensive support to over 1,000 partner schools reaching approximately 50,000 pupils in Reception and Year 1.

To ensure that every young person is equipped with the skills they need for further study and the world of work, we’re investing in programmes including maths hubs and the Advanced Maths Support Programme.

And at post-16 level we are funding colleges to deliver a further two million courses. One day soon I want T-levels to be as famous as A-levels!

Thanks to a Conservative government, one-to-one tutoring is no longer the preserve of the wealthy but the right of every child.

Every child deserves a great teacher. And every teacher deserves great training. So, as the foundation of the next decade of reform, during this Parliament we will deliver 500,000 teacher training opportunities. We are carrying out a fundamental overhaul that will make this country the best in the world to train and learn as a teacher.

And that means investing in our outstanding early years staff, too. Forty per cent of educational inequality is baked in by the age of five.

Great early education can change that. Which is why we are investing a record £180m in developing and deepening the expertise of the brilliant men and women who care for and educate our children when they are absorbing most about the world around them.

And our ambition is not simply to recover but to build back better. That is why I will bring forward a Schools White Paper in the new year outlining plans to tackle innumeracy and illiteracy. We will relentlessly drive up standards building back a better and fairer school system.

I will work tirelessly to spread opportunity and unleash the brilliance of the young people of this country.

As Vaccines Minister, I saw what is possible when we come together to deliver on a shared ambition. The vaccine story epitomises the spirit of our United Kingdom. Give us a target, no matter how ambitious, and we will come together and we will hit it.

We will do the same with education, coming together with the shared goal of delivering a bright future for our children.

Now it’s my turn to make sure that the opportunities that transformed my life are available to every child in every corner of our great country. I intend to be the Secretary of State for aspiration and opportunity and skills. And together we will level up this country and provide the key that unlocks the limitless potential of our next generation.

Nadhim Zahawi is the Education Secretary. This is an edited version of his speech to the Tory party conference.

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