UN International Day of Education

As a governor at a special school in Dudley, I saw many of the challenges faced by highly skilled and dedicated teachers in providing top-quality education to children with learning disabilities, even in a country with all the advantages of the United Kingdom. But I also saw the incredible difference the school made to those children and to their families, not only to their education, but to their social and emotional development, and to tackling barriers and inequality.

When I went with Results UK and Leonard Cheshire Disability to see projects being run using UK aid for children with learning and physical disabilities in Kenya, I saw that the difference that education was making was on a completely different scale; children who had until recently no hope of even the most basic of schooling were able to enjoy so many of the benefits that we all take for granted. Without this schooling, too many children with learning disabilities, particularly girls with disabilities, were kept shut away at home, their opportunities in life unbelievably and heartbreakingly limited. But with school, funded through UK aid, they were growing and developing just like any other child of their age, with joy on their faces that could light up any room—this was genuinely changing lives.

It is more important than ever when budgets are tight that money is spent on the things that will make the most difference, and nothing could make more of a difference than investing in making sure that some of the most vulnerable children in the world can access quality education. I am proud that the UK set the example in replenishing funding for education which cannot wait, to make sure that children in emergency zones, whether places of conflict or areas where people have been displaced by famine, disease or climate change, have an education that can transform lives. I am pleased that other countries, such as the United States, the Netherlands and Germany, have stepped up to increase their own donations during the current crisis, when so many people around the world face even more barriers to accessing that education. I hope that the UK and our Government will use the opportunities as they host the G7 this year to make sure that not only our country, but our partners match our commitments with actions that meet the scale of the challenges we face to deliver on quality global education for all.