LABOUR will embrace the Government’s controversial “schools’ revolution”, the party’s new education spokesman has revealed – provided key tests are met.
In his first interview, Stephen Twigg, the Liverpool West Derby MP, said he would back the setting-up of “free schools”, by parents, teachers or non-profit groups, if they helped poorer children and the wider community.
Pointing to the proposal put forward by Everton Football Club, to use the power of sport to engage pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, he said: “No politician should be against such schools.”
The Conservatives are certain to leap on the comments as a U-turn on the position taken by Mr Twigg’s predecessor in the education post, Liverpool-born Andy Burnham.
Earlier this year, Mr Burnham condemned free schools as a “reckless gamble”, attacking a “free-for all, where good schools can be destabilised and where teachers can be employed without teaching qualifications”.
Mr Twigg also said he was “relaxed” about an enormous expansion of Academies, free of local authority influence and able to set their own curriculum, teaching hours and pay rates.
However, he insisted that, on free schools, he was not dramatically shifting the party’s position, adding: “Andy never said he had an absolute policy of opposing free schools either.” And he heaped praise on Mr Burnham’s drive to keep the likes of drama, arts and information technology on the school curriculum, saying: “Andy did a lot of very important work on vocational education. I aim to build upon it.”
Asked if Labour was shifting from a more traditional party stance on schools to a “new Labour” policy, Mr Twigg said: “I think that’s too simple. But people will describe it in the way they want.”