Labour candidate Helen Dallimore has defended her party’s pledge to recruit 6,500 more teachers nationally, saying she will push for its benefits if she is elected to the new Exmouth and Exeter East constituency next week.

Speaking at a hustings in Topsham organised by headteachers’ union NAHT, Ms Dallimore said the policy would be a key focus for Labour if it wins power.

“Because it’s fully funded, it is right up there in terms of priorities and I would be making sure that we were getting the benefits of that here,” she said.

“And longer term, things need to be looked at such as mental health provision in schools, as access to that is so necessary for young people who are subject to huge waiting lists.”

Asked by student journalist Alfie Richardson whether it is sensible for a town the size of Exmouth to only have one comprehensive school, Ms Dallimore said the figures opened up an interesting debate.

“There is still capacity at Exmouth Community College, but I do think it is something I would want to look at, alongside what we need for this constituency in terms of further education technical excellence colleges,” she explained.

“That is referenced in our manifesto and we want to make sure we create choices for people.”

Mr Richardson pointed out the 6,500-teacher pledge works out as roughly one new teacher for every four schools, and asked Ms Dallimore whether Labour’s previous mantra of ‘education, education, education’ was now less important to the party.

“It’s not to me,” she said.

“It’s a key reason that I’m standing, and one of Labour’s missions is to break down barriers to opportunity and education, and a huge part of that relates to our manifesto pledge about the 6,500 teachers, which is a fully-funded first step.

“We recognise there is a lot to do in education, given the Tory government’s approach, and it is a huge priority for me and I’m making sure I speak to experts in the education system and businesses to make sure we create an education that works for their futures.”

Ms Dallimore is standing in Exmouth against Paul Arnott (Liberal Democrats), Mark Baldwin (Climate Party), Olly Davey (Green Party), Peter Faithfull (independent), David Reed (Conservatives), Garry Sutherland (Reform) and Dan Wilson (independent).