Stephen Twigg: 'Every child still matters'
Stephen Twigg, shadow secretary of state for education, gave the keynote speech at our breakfast seminar this week. True to the speech’s ‘Every child still matters’ theme, he focused on how children and families should be supported from a young person’s first year right through to adulthood.
He highlighted our Good Childhood research that shows that 500,000 children and young people have low well-being, and that how they feel about their lives matters.
Twigg spoke of the current government’s focus on schools and attainment, and argued that schools can do a fantastic job of supporting children and developing their potential, but that they are only one element in a child’s life.
He called for a more comprehensive and holistic approach to children and young people, to ensure they are able to make the most of their potential.
Improving childcare and access to free school meals
He argued that one of Labour’s key achievements was the success they had in children’s early years with Sure Start children’s centres, and stressed that more needs to be done to improve childcare. He added that Labour has established a commission, which he is chairing, to review the party’s childcare offer at the next general election.
There is a need, he said, to focus on providing high quality childcare that has the needs of the child at its very heart and is affordable, promising that childcare would feature heavily in the Labour party’s election manifesto.
Highlighting our Fair and Square campaign and that currently 1.2 million children living in poverty are not receiving a free school meal every day, Twigg spoke of his concern that the government’s plans for the future of free school meals.
‘When society doesn't have much money we should focus on the poorest and make work pay’, he said. He called on the government to ’promise that free school meal eligibility won't be squeezed again’.
He also spoke of his disappointment that academies and free schools are able to opt out of the nutritional standards for school meals, despite the clear evidence of the health and educational value of a healthy school lunch. He argued that ‘Whilst autonomy is important, Labour is calling on the government to ensure that nutritional standards apply in all publicly funded schools.’
Ensuring that all children are protected
Twigg also emphasised the importance of making sure that we as a society protect all children. Highlighting our Make Runaways Safe campaign and the recent case in Rochdale around child sexual exploitation, he said that there was a clear need to do more to protect our most vulnerable teenagers.
He argued that running away from home or care should be one of the key indicators that a child is at risk and that running away should be a priority for all local safeguarding children’s boards.
By Ruby Peacock, Policy and Parliamentary Assistant
- Upcoming policy events such as our breakfast with Stephen Twigg
- Our Fair and Square campaign
- Our Make Runaways Safe campaign
After the keynote address
After his keynote address, Stephen Twigg and our Chief Executive Matthew Reed took questions from the audience.