Melissa Benn, writer, author, novelist, campaigner, UKLife Lessons: The Case for a National Education Service


A bold proposal for new thinking on education: the formation of a National Education Service



It is time for a radical shake up of the purposes and practices of our education system.

Melissa Benn is one of the most clear sighted and vocal campaigners for improving our schools. She shows here how we need to rethink education for life. As more and more of us live and work longer than ever before, a National Education Service should, like the NHS, be the framework that ensures a life-long entitlement for all, from early years provision to apprenticeships, universities and adult education. Like the NHS, it should be free at the point of delivery. The purpose of learning is not solely to pass exams but to prepare for living in the world; citizens of the future will need to develop their imaginations as well as their intellects, to be at ease with both knowledge and uncertainty.

Life Lessons sets out a radical agenda for how we make education for all, and make it relevant to the demands of 21st century. This requires a deep-rooted, long-term vision of the role of learning in our society, one that is ready to take on the challenges of a new century and be part of a wider shift towards greater equality.

“When we see what’s going wrong in education, we need people like Melissa Benn to give us signposts for what else is possible. As a lifelong campaigner for a fair and equitable education system, she shows she is the ideal person to map out a progressive agenda for education in the future.  this book is a timely appeal for a rational and democratic education service.”
– Michael Rosen, author of Good Ideas

“Benn’s proposals are…. radical. She wants to “change the conversation” to one that overturns Britain’s willingness to accept as inevitable the strange mix of types of schools we have inherited — state-funded versus fee-funded private institutions, academically selective state and private versus all-ability comprehensives, linked to a religious faith and tradition versus not. And since the reforms of recent years, local authority-run versus self-governing academy or free school.”
– Miranda Green, Financial Times

“Benn is….splendidly clear on fee-charging schools. Outright abolition, she rightly argues, would raise “an unproductive public outcry”. She would deprive them – and, equally important, their parent customers – of the tax breaks that derive from charitable status and, as Jeremy Corbyn proposed in 2017, slap VAT on the fees. Labour has been promising action on private education since 1964. Now is surely the time to deliver.”
– Peter Wilby, The Guardian

“Invaluable in providing education activists with the tools to move debates on Labour education policies forward… A very readable book, to be thoroughly recommended.”
– Morning Star