Keir Starmer is giving another speech on one of his five missions (remember them?) today. The Labour leader has a lower bar to meet with his five pledges than Rishi Sunak. While the Prime Minister has to achieve things like halving inflation by the end of the year, the Labour leader just has to stick to his policies all the way to the election manifesto. On current form, that’s enough of a challenge, but today’s announcement on smashing the ‘class ceiling’ is a particularly personal interest of Starmer’s, which gives it a better chance of survival.
In a speech in Kent, Starmer will commit to oracy being a key element of the national curriculum. His argument is that young people need the skills to express themselves, writing in the Times that ‘an inability to articulate your thoughts fluently is a key barrier to getting on and thriving in life.’ He also thinks that teaching them will get children off their screens, which is more ambitious even than the targets Sunak has set his government.
Anyway, private schools routinely teach these oracy skills, but they aren’t emphasised as much in the state sector, and so Starmer is arguing that all children should have the same education in confidence and articulacy. This is personal for him – you may not have heard him mention before that his father was a toolmaker – as he sees class and social mobility as being a core part of what he stands for. Together with Bridget Phillipson, who he somewhat ominously referred to this morning as the ‘current shadow education secretary’, Starmer has shaped this particular policy himself.