Steph Peacock
MP for Barnsley East
Programme cohort

From standing in the classroom to standing for election

Teach First ambassador and MP Steph Peacock talks about her hopes for the future of Britain's education system, and what she learned as a teacher.

I’ve learned a lot from teaching and Teach First… I have always felt that if you can hold the attention of 30-odd teenagers you can do anything. Teach First teaches you to be resilient, get stuck in and accelerates your personal development hugely.

I’m standing at the general election because… I have always believed in fairness, equality and social justice and I wanted to put that into action. I didn't want to sit on the sidelines but be on the front line. I will fight to save our NHS, for decent wages, good jobs for local people so that no one in Barnsley East should struggle to get by or get on in life. That's why I'm standing to be the MP for Barnsley East.

I am campaigning for more investment in Barnsley’s education services… Young people throughout Barnsley East face several challenges, and it is crucial these are addressed to make sure all of them are given the best opportunity to get on in life.

One major issue is educational resources. Since 2010, the Government has consistently cut funding to our schools, forcing the largest funding cut in a generation. Not surprisingly, the effects have become appallingly apparent for children of all ages. For instance, a lack of access to crucial resources meant in 2015 22 percent of five-year-olds in Barnsley East did not reach the expected level of speech and language skills. For those on free school meals, this figure rose to 37 percent - one of the highest levels in the country. We must oppose the cuts, especially as a further £9.2m is due to be taken from Barnsley’s education budget by 2019.

Teacher retention needs to be a priority for the Government… Record levels of teachers are leaving our schools, whilst the Government has missed its recruitment target in each of the last five years. A narrow curriculum, culture of assessment and cap on public sector pay is driving our teachers away. In fact, schools across Barnsley were forced to spend over £2.8m on temporary and agency staff over the last academic year to plug their teacher shortages. This is completely unsustainable, and it's our young people who are suffering. 

We need to tackle the teacher recruitment problem by ensuring our incredibly hardworking teachers have the adequate resources and support to effectively carry out their jobs. This again means proper funding, but also ending the public pay cap, giving teachers more involvement in the curriculum, and creating an environment that leads to successful learning. 

We need to inspire young people to dream big… For too long, Government neglect of this area has left too many behind and many others not truly believing they can go on to be successful in whichever field choose. So whether it be through academia or vocational roles, we need to ensure young people here believe they can achieve, and encourage them to aim high.

Successful societies have great education systems… Education is the key to unlocking opportunity and empowering individuals to shape the future they deserve. If you look at some of the most successful societies, at their heart is a quality education system and a respected teaching profession. By prioritising education, we are demonstrating that we believe in the talent and potential every young person has. Challenge the Impossible is a great campaign that clearly articulates the key actions that collectively will change the dial, and begin to create a fairer society for all. 

Social mobility is key to a more equal society… Britain has a deep social mobility problem, which is getting worse for an entire generation of young people.  To achieve a fairer, more equal society we must place social mobility front and centre of what we do.

Teaching and Teach First will make me a better MP… Humility, respect and empathy – as a teacher you need to employ these skills with your pupils, parents and colleagues. I learnt how to set a vision and create a positive culture. As an MP – you need to understand all sorts of situations and try and find solutions. Being a positive role model for your pupils, always maintaining your professionalism and having their back at all times – is much like the role of an MP.

Teach First ambassadors stood in the election across the political spectrum, for a variety of causes. Teach First is a registered charity and therefore is politically neutral.

Read an interview with a Teach First ambassador who stood for the Conservative Party.
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