Labour leadership hustings
What would you do to address the gulf in academic attainment between state schools and independent schools?
Ed Balls: You'd expect there to be a gap: private schools have more funding through charging fees and many of them select the brightest pupils, too. The key thing is to make sure standards in state schools are improving. That's what has happened in the last decade and I'm proud that schools in the poorest areas saw the fastest rises in results when Labour was in government. But there's more to do, which is why, for instance, we were introducing one to one tuition for all children in state schools falling behind in English and maths – the sort of thing that's taken for granted in independent schools. But I'm sorry to say that it doesn't look like the new government is going to carry on with that.
Diane Abbott: Invest more in state schools. The last Labour government made a start. For instance, a decade ago, when I had to decide where to send my son to secondary school, the national figure for boys getting five GCSEs A-E was 42% but the equivalent figure for black boys in Hackney was 9%. Happily, five new secondary schools were built in Hackney under the last government. So, if I had to make a decision about secondary transfer now, I would not have to go down the private route.
Andy Burnham: In Government, Labour did some great work in education. The Building Schools for the Future programme, now another casualty of the Coalition axe, delivered state-of-the-art learning facilities, while unprecedented levels of investment went into employing teachers, teaching assistants and classroom resources. As a result GCSE and A Level results improved year on year. Maintaining those resources, maintaining that level of teacher-to-pupil ratio is vital if state schools are to compete with those in the independent sector. Sadly, the Coalition appears intent on knocking this down brick by brick.
David Miliband: The best state schools are second to none. However, the link between children's background and academic achievement remains. That's why I want to recruit and retain world class teachers and encourage them to teach in the poorest schools. And funding matters, the average private school fee is twice the average cost per pupil in a state school so we need to make sure that funding in schools is maintained.
I invented the building schools for the future programme because I believed that state schools should be as well equipped for 21st century as private schools that is why I was so appalled by the government's decision to scrap it. Ensuring our children do as well as they can at school should always be our priority.
I want to reform the 14-19 curriculum to make it exciting and relevant. We are over-testing our young people and not offering them a wide enough range of options to develop their love of learning. I am passionate about equal life chances for all – and education is absolutely central to that.
Ed Miliband: Labour's academies programme was focused on the schools serving some of the most disadvantaged communities, yet the Coalition have totally changed the focus so it is the schools that are already doing well that get extra funds and freedoms - that's totally wrong. I'd give all schools the freedoms because we need less interference from Whitehall and we should trust heads and teachers more, but ensure the funding is targeted where it is needed most.
Narrowing the gap between the state and independent sector is an important goal. I want to see state schools also able to keep classes small, put on one to one catch up tuition and a wide range of afterschool clubs that broaden the mind and keep kids fit. I want to see state schools with as good facilities as private schools so I'll be fighting the Coalition's cutting of out Building Schools for the Future programme.
The amount of money that parents have and the time they can spend with their children also has a huge impact. So I think wider change in the economy, like a Living Wage, not just a minimum wage, and a right to request flexible working for all will make a real difference to some families as well.