Send My Friend to School

Written by: Kevin Courtney | Published:
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, National Education Union

The UK has a key role to play in the fight to unlock education for the 262 million children who remain out-of-school, says Kevin Courtney

It is a sad statistic that 262 million children and young people remain out-of-school around the world. Furthermore, 131 million girls are locked out of school worldwide, with twice as many girls as boys never starting school at all.

It is shocking, too, that 50 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not receive an education. This represents the huge inequality that exists in education globally.

It is an issue that should concern us all. At home and abroad, we need real commitments to tackling inequality in education and reaching all learners.

We can all benefit from an educated and empowered global community, and the next generation would benefit most of all.
Indeed, education is a human right. It is enshrined in law. You can find it in Article 26 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. But the reality is a far cry from the ideal.

In 2015, world leaders recommitted to delivering the right to education for every child through the agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One of these, SDG4, specifically calls on governments to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

In July of this year, the UK will assess its progress towards this goal by participating in its first ever Voluntary National Review at the UN’s High Level Political Forum, where SDG4 is one of the goals under review.

The UK is seen as a global leader in education – it has the financial capacity and political clout to make a real difference to delivering education for everyone.

The 2019 Send My Friend to School campaign focuses on this very issue. Students across the UK will be taking part in activities, outlined in the excellent teaching pack, and calling on their MP to help #unlockeducation around the world.

The students locked out of education are often those who face multiple barriers to education. In some cases the available school system cannot keep pace with population growth and there is a lack of trained teachers and adequate facilities.

In other cases, children are variously locked out because they are disabled, or live in a conflict zone, or have been excluded simply for being a girl. School fees and commercial interests are other factors that conspire to marginalise so many.

The UK must lead in tackling this terrible situation. We must work with other countries and invest more – and more equitably – in education in order to lift the prospects for those who currently miss out, and to train and enable those who want to teach.

This is no small ambition. It is hard to comprehend the sheer scale of children who are out-of-school around the globe. But when faced with this reality, it is important to remember that we are not powerless.

Many schools are already participating in #unlockeducation . It is a great way for pupils to gain a new perspective on the world and to have a tangible sense that they are engaging with it.

Now is the time for the UK to deliver. At home and abroad, we need real commitments to tackling inequality in education and reaching all learners.

We firmly support high-quality public education for all. As an educator, I know the value of school and the future it can unlock.

Education is the great enabler. I encourage the UK government to take seriously Send My Friend to School’s recommendations and #unlockeducation for everyone.

  • Kevin Courtney is joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

Further information

To find out more about the Send My Friend 2019 activities, and to download the teacher pack, visit

This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
About Us

Headteacher Update is the only magazine delivered directly to every primary school headteacher in the UK. It is published six times a year, at the beginning of each term and half-term, to keep headteachers up-to-date with everything going on in primary education.

Learn more about Headteacher update


Register to receive regular updates on primary education news delivered free to your inbox.