Angela Rayner MP is one of the youngest front-benchers in history. At just 36, she could be forgiven for taking time to settle into her role as Shadow Education Secretary, before tackling the Tories’ education policy.
Instead, the rising star has hit the ground running; pledging to bring back EMA and university grants for the poorest students in the country.
Born into a working-class family, Rayner was unable to continue her education after her GCSEs; entering full-time employment at just 16 to support her son and her Grandmother, who was working three jobs.
Rayner is ideally placed to represent some of the poorest in our society; understanding the financial barriers that inhibit social mobility for poorer students.
Corbyn’s detractors often dismiss policy plans as uncosted, yet education policies under Corbyn have rarely been more substantive.
Rayner has already stated that reinstatement of EMA could be paid for by a 1.5% increase in corporation tax, which would raise £3bn per year, as part of a new “National Education Service.
A Labour government would use 50% of the levied £3 billion to increase student support, and 40% of the remaining 50% to reverse the public sector pay freeze. (The remaining 10% would be used for other policies).
Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank suggested EMA – which was worth £30 a week – helped boost educational participation among teenagers, improve social mobility and ensure young people from less-privileged backgrounds were not barred from further education.
The Coalition government abolished EMA in 2011, claiming it did not represent value for money (a decision Labour opposed).
The last Conservative government made repeated cuts to corporation tax, hoping to encourage post-Brexit investment; giving the UK one of the lowest corporation tax bands in the developed world.
Although Theresa May (unceremoniously) sacked Osborne as one of her first acts as PM, it remains unclear whether Phillip Hammond intends to reverse this cut.
As Angela Rayner said; “When we can help improve the education of over a million young people with a small increase in corporation tax, it is an investment we would be foolish not to make.”
A Parliamentary Labour Party under Corbyn believes the best way to invest in a society is to invest in its people. Giving students from poorer backgrounds the support they need for further education would create not just opportunities for them, but society as a whole; improving social mobility, increasing access to home ownership and stimulating the economy for the long-term.
The Tories seem set on pandering to big business as a way of propping-up an already-failing economy. However, they’ve failed to explain how burdening our young people with even more debt would help their life-chances and boost their spending-power in the long-term. With tuition fees at an all-time high; borrowing-confidence for young people is at an all-time low. This needs to be addressed.
Only by investing in education can we ensure that all our young people, whatever their background, are able to succeed in whatever they aspire to do.
Only the Labour party is committed to investing in our young people the way they need and deserve; extending to tuition-free university education and a life-time adult education service.
Education policy has rarely looked more secure, nor as radical, as it does under Corbyn’s Labour.
In Angela Rayner, we have someone with the passion, dedication and competence to make this a reality.
By V Pearson, @vspearson85