Education and skills training transforms people’s lives and is key to the UK’s long-term prospects. I work closely with schools, colleges, universities and businesses in Sheffield. I am secretary of the APPG on Universities and Chair of the APPG on Students, which I set up to give further and higher education students a voice in Parliament. I also co-chair the newly formed APPG on International Students with Lord Bilimoria.
I was delighted to be voted 2015’s most inspiring leader in Higher Education, as a result of my work championing universities and students. Both our universities are in my constituency – The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University – and I meet regularly with their staff and students to bring their concerns to Parliament. My work on universities has included supporting investment in university science and research, defending the Disabled Student’s Allowance, making the case for international students (read more here) and scrutinising the Higher Education and Research Act (read more here). As a Shadow Brexit Minister, safeguarding universities' funding, research and access to talent post-Brexit is a key priority (read more here). For example, I spoke from the front-bench in a Parliamentary debate on Brexit and higher education, and have pressed Ministers to protect the UK's place in EU research programmes.
You can find out more about my work representing students here.
I regularly visit Sheffield College and the University Technical College on Shoreham Street. I have spoken in Parliament about the impact of further education funding problems on Sheffield College and arranged meetings with Ministers to secure additional finance. I was an early supporter of the University Technical College, recognising that both academic and technical education are key for the future. At a Parliamentary lobby in Westminster I warned the Government of the threat from cuts to adult education and training. I have also campaigned against cuts to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses, which play a vital role in helping people play a full part in society.
I work closely with local schools and push their concerns with Government. I recently met with the NAHT and the NUT to discuss the cuts facing every school in my constituency, and then wrote to every headteacher seeking to work with them to oppose the Government's plans. I have called on the Government to address the educational attainment gap between children in Yorkshire and London – we have great teachers, but too often the funding isn’t in place to support them. I challenged former Education Secretary Michael Gove about his plans for GCSEs and defended funding for the redevelopment of King Edward VII School. I have regular Big Conversation meetings in local schools, listening to students about the concerns they want me to raise in Parliament. I have also voted for Labour proposals to introduce age appropriate sex and relationships education so that young people have the knowledge, skills and confidence for healthy relationships and to keep safe from sexual abuse.
I am calling on the Government to create high level, well paid apprenticeships. You can read my speech on the ‘Future of Apprenticeships’ here, which arose from our BIS Select Committee report into apprenticeships. I continue to challenge the Government over the illegal practice of employers underpaying apprentices (see here, here and here).
Business, innovation and skills
As a member of Parliament’s Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee between 2010 and 2016 I scrutinised the Business Department’s action on education and skills. As a committee we undertook inquiries into teaching quality at universities, business-university collaboration, the digital economy, apprenticeships and adult literacy and numeracy. I have also held a debate in Parliament about the importance of university science and research to regional economies. I was also a member of the Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy – an innovative joint BIS and Education Select Committees group, which is focusing on how both the BIS and Education Departments can work together to promote education and skills.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more. You can also find out more about my work representing students here.