Labour backs parent-led schools, shadow minister insists

Oct 13, 2013 by

Labour is “on the side” of parents who want to set up schools and would not shut most existing free schools, the new shadow education secretary insists.

Tristram Hunt told the BBC Labour backed “enterprise and innovation” when it came to increasing school places.

A future Labour government would push ahead with its own version of the principle – parent-led academies.

The government accuses Labour of saying it will end free schools and then promoting them under another name.

Free schools, set up by parents and other groups and operating outside local authority control, have been established under a flagship policy pioneered by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Labour has been accused of sending out mixed messages about the party’s support for them, opposing their roll-out at a national level but backing individual schools locally.

‘Vanity project’

Mr Hunt, who took over from Stephen Twigg as the party’s education spokesman last week, once described free schools as a “vanity project for yummy mummies”.

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that Labour’s position on free schools had not changed and that while a future Labour government would not open new ones “along the Michael Gove model”, existing ones would be kept open.

“We will keep the good free schools when we get into government.”

Citing the case of the Al-Madinah free school in Derby – which is threatened with closure after it was found to have discriminated towards female staff, delivered a poor standard of education, and failed to ensure the safety of children – Mr Hunt said Labour would not allow schools to become an “ideological experiment”.

“What is going on with the Al-Madinah school is a terrifying example of the mistakes of Michael Gove’s education policy,” he said, adding that a lack of “oversight” of the running of the school had led to children having to be be sent home.

‘Properly qualified’

New schools, he added, should only be opened in areas where there was a shortage of places, where “properly qualified” staff could be recruited and where institutions were financially accountable and transparent.

Under Labour’s plans, parent-led academies would also enable parent groups and other organisations to set up schools outside local authority control, although local authorities would have greater powers to intervene when there were concerns about standards.

“If you are a group of parents, social entrepreneurs and teachers interested in setting up a school in areas where you need new school places, then the Labour government will be on your side.

“We are in favour of enterprise and innovation.”

More generally, Mr Hunt said there needed to be more focus on vocational education with support for further education colleges and apprenticeships in industry.

via BBC News – Labour backs parent-led schools, shadow minister insists.

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