Gavin Williamson's Tory conference speech in full

Education secretary Gavin Williamson addressed the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Here's what he said...

education secretary gavin williamson

"It is a great honour to serve as education secretary.

"Serving the young people who will become the leaders of tomorrow – working with the public servants like those heroes from whom we just heard, who teach in our schools, who run our nurseries, lead our colleges and head our universities and the children’s social workers who care – care for the most vulnerable children in our society.

"So please, everybody, join me in showing our gratitude for their selflessness and service to the future of our country.


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"As Conservatives, we have an incredible story to tell about what we’re doing for young people.

"For working parents with three- and four-year-olds – 30 hours a week of free childcare. 

"Better schools – with 85 per cent of children taught in 'good' or 'outstanding' schools. That’s up from 66 per cent under Labour.

"And we’re helping young people, whatever their background, wherever they live.

"Under this Conservative government, more 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before.

"When Boris became prime minister, one of his first acts was to keep his promise and make sure there is fair funding for all our schools.

"So we’re investing an extra £14 billion over three years.

"We’ll level-up funding across the country. So, from the next academic year, all secondary schools will receive at least £5,000 per pupil and all primaries will receive at least £3,750 per pupil rising to £4,000 the year after.

"Every school in England will receive a funding increase.

"So, conference, we have an incredible story to tell. 

"I’m not going to let Labour's ideological zealots tear up years of progress made by both New Labour and Conservative governments.

"Because, let’s be clear, abolishing all primary school tests, ending phonics reading tests, scrapping free schools and academies, taking freedom from headteachers and choice from parents, returning all schools to local authority control, scrapping Ofsted and making local authorities responsible for inspecting their own schools and even their own local children’s services – this is no plan for the future. This is a recipe for disaster.

"Labour is obsessed with driving ideology into the classroom. Conservatives will always drive up standards and opportunity for every child in this country.

"So, I won’t tire of striving every day to do even more for our country’s children.

"But even today, even after all this progress, there is one part of our education system that’s often overlooked – further education.

"While past Labour governments obsessed over targets to get half the population to university, they forgot about the other 50 per cent. They ignored the other 50 per cent.

"Conference, we’re going to put that right.

"Ever since secondary education was made free and available to all – by a Conservative, RA Butler – governments of all colours have talked about technical and vocational education but deeds, in truth, have rarely matched the words.

"That’s why I promise to give my all to make technical and vocational education the first choice for anybody with the aptitude, desire and interest to pursue it. 

"Apprenticeships, technical and vocational education are just as valuable as university education – and they are just as important to our economy. So, today, I am setting a new ambition to super-charge further education over the next decade with an aim to overtake Germany in the opportunities we offer to those studying technical routes by 2029.

"And, in delivering this new ambition, we’ll be guided by the evidence. So, I will establish an expert Skills and Productivity Board of leading industrialists and labour market economists to provide strategic advice on the skills and qualifications we need. 

"But I don’t want to focus only on apprenticeships and T-levels, because we need better technical and vocational education over and above that, too.

"And that is why we’re opening new institutes of technology – they’re providing university-level technical qualifications and the sector-specific skills that are most needed in their local economies. 

"They have the potential to transform high-level technical education, bringing together FE colleges, universities and employers. But we don’t have enough of them to serve the whole country. So, today, I can tell you we will make available an extra £120 million so we can have an institute of technology in every part of the country, opening a total of 20, so that there is one in each major city.

"We will make sure every young person in every part of our country gets the chance to gain the high-level technical skills that they, and we, need.

"From the elementary to the elite – we need stretching technical education at every level. 

"To see what I mean, just look at Kerry’s amazing school – a 16-19 maths free school teaching young maths geniuses to a truly advanced level; 93 per cent of students there got an A or A* in their maths A level this year.

"And I can announce today that we are working with Durham University and Durham Sixth Form Centre to open a new Maths School there.

"We will open 11 of these so that we have at least one in every region.

"Conference, I’ve been in the Department for Education for just 10 short weeks, but my mission as your education secretary is clear: to accept no excuses and keep the focus on raising standards in all our schools but also to deliver nothing less than a revolution in technical education.

"Doing so is vital for our country, for our economy and, most importantly, for our children. And I can tell you, spend any time in the company of our nation's young people, listen to them describe their hopes and ambitions, and it is impossible to feel anything other than admiration and optimism. Optimism for their future, optimism for Britain’s future and a belief that, with the right help and support, this is a generation that can achieve anything they want. It is our responsibility to make sure they do."

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