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Clegg eyes control of DfE in any coalition deal

Nick Clegg has targeted control of the Department for Education in any coalition deals, as he pledged to turn a page on the “Gove-esque interference” in teachers’ working lives.

The Liberal Democrat leader said he wanted his party to run the DfE “on our own terms”, having spent the past five years dealing with the “zany” ideas of former education secretary Michael Gove.

Speaking on the campaign trail ahead of next month's general election, Mr Clegg once again described the Lib Dems as the “party of education”, promising to free teachers from the political meddling that he said characterised the previous Parliament.

Asked if education would be the kind of Cabinet post he wanted for the Lib Dems under another coalition, Mr Clegg said: "I would, particularly having wasted a lot of time dealing with a lot of zany, ideological gimmicks from Michael Gove and his team.

"It would be a good thing if the Liberal Democrats were able to run education policy on our own terms, not least because we are the only party which is prepared to give the schools, colleges and nurseries the means that they need to absorb 400,000 new youngsters in our education system over the next five years."

The Lib Dems have pledged to water down many of the reforms brought in by the Conservatives, such as the requirement for any new school to be a free school or an academy. The party has also called for a democratically accountable “middle tier” to oversee all schools.

The Lib Dems have in addition committed to increase funding for the education budget for two- to 19-year-olds by 2020, ensuring that the amount of cash per pupil would be protected in real terms.

Mr Clegg said he would "turn a page on the Gove-esque centralising interference in what teachers teach in the classroom".

He added: "We are setting out ideas and amplifying ideas today which will take out a lot of the political interference which has dogged the day-to-day life of teachers far too much – from the micromanagement of the history curriculum by Michael Gove through to excessive day-to-day workload."

Mr Clegg also promised to restore morale in the teaching profession. "I get very distressed when I hear how teachers feel they have been somewhat put-upon in recent years," he said, promising to "celebrate not denigrate the great, noble profession".

His comments were dismissed by Conservative sources, however.

A source close to Michael Gove said: "By zany and ideological, does Clegg mean teaching children to spell properly and do their times tables? Or making exams harder? Or training teachers in schools rather than left-wing colleges dominated by the unions?"

Related news:

Labour takes the lead in the battle for the teacher vote - 17 April 2015

Clegg launches Lib Dem manifesto with school spending pledge - 15 April 2015

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