Stephen Twigg, Labour's new Shadow Secretary of State for Education
Stephen Twigg, who has replaced Andy Burnham as Shadow Secretary of State for Education told the Liberpool Daily Post that:
On free schools, I am saying that we need to apply a set of tests, that we are not going to take an absolute policy of opposing them.
The tests should be: will the school raise standards for pupils and parents, will it contribute to a narrowing of the achievement gap between rich and poor and what is the wider impact of that school?
This statement has kicked up quite a fuss about Labour reversing their previous position on Free Schools. I, for one, think that these comments are very sensible when considered in the light that Labour will inherit any number of Free Schools when we win re-election.
The tests that Stephen Twigg outlines are not based upon ideological doctrine in the same way that Michael Gove’s belief in the Free Schools ideal is, but is based upon sound logic and consideration of the needs, and opinions, of parents and school teachers.
Indeed, asking the above tests of the whole Free Schools project shows a subtle, but important distinction when compared against Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy – Free Schools will now be judged as a whole, rather than individual cases. The tests that he lays out will ensure that the project is providing a quality service for the consumers of the service, i.e school children and parents.
By enusring that the Free Schools project provides help for poorer children and the wider community, Labour will provide a Progressive alternative to the Government’s program of introducing profit making into the British education system.
The former Shadow Secratary State for Education, Andy Burnham attacked the Conservative-led Government’s free school proposals as being a:
Free-for all, where good schools can be destabilised and where teachers can be employed without teaching qualifications.
In some cases this is true. Evidence has shown that this can be true.
However, by assesing the benefits of Free Schools as a whole, rather than indavidually, and ensuring that the projects can be shown to contribute to society by narrowing the ‘education gap’, and ensuring that schoolchildren receive the highest standard of education possible, Labour’s support for the Free School concept could provide a template for future schools projects by a new Labour Government.
Labour would be unwise to oppose a project that is here to stay. We should instead seek to improve and refine the model for the benefit of future generations.
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