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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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At some point in the next four years we are certain to see a referendum on Scottish Independence. Will that vote be the end of the United Kingdom?

No. The United Kingdom remains as strong an institution as it has ever been. Devolution, a process started and finished by the last Labour Government has ensured that the outcome in that referendum will be a “no” vote. Now that there is a Tory – Liberal Government in Westminster, which will inflict spending cuts which will disproportionally affect Scotland a vote for independence would seem to be inevitable.

That would be true, if it were not for the Scotland Act, Devolution and the Scottish Parliament. These institutions allow Scots to protect themselves from a relatively hostile Westminster Government. Alex Salmond is the man that Scots have supported in this difficult time for Scotland. The Scottish National Party, having won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament after an election in which they barely mentioned independence for Scotland. The SNP must be careful not to be overly hubristic after their success. They have one a victory. They will not win another in the fight for the future of the United Kingdom. As things stand, the Scottish public are overwhelmingly against independence. This will only potentially change for one reason.

The Conservative and Unionist Party.

If that Party now uses Scotland as a way of meeting their targets for spending cuts, they may be the force that causes the Union to collapse. Of course, the smart move politically would be for the Tories to support Scottish Independence. At the last General Election, Labour won 41 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. Without those seats, Labour would have only just won a majority in the House of Commons in 2005. Scotland has been called the “Jewel in Labour’s Crown”. The Tories could never win in Scotland. They could however, stop Labour from winning. The Tories could easily find themselves in a position where they could rob Labour of that Jewel, and Crown forever. Labour as a governing Party could be consigned to the history books. Scottish independence would be significantly less advantageous for Scotland than having a national Labour Government. A Scottish Government would find it near impossible to maintain valuable Scottish services such as the NHS at their current levels. Devolution will protect Scotland in the years to come. Independence would destroy it.

For Labour to win the next General Election, and for Scotland to maintain it’s standing the Union must remain intact.

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