Tristram Hunt: 'Dear Nicky, please explain your school rescue package'

13th October 2014 at 17:01

Tristram Hunt, Labour's education spokesman, has written an open letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan:

Dear Nicky

Today’s announcement that the prime minister has embarked on a “rescue package” for his failing schools policy confirms what we have known for a long time. His schools policy has been found desperately wanting, exposed by the Trojan Horse incident in Birmingham and responsible for a 16 per cent rise in unqualified teachers across all schools.

But today’s package, according to HM government’s schools minister, "seems to have been cobbled together on the back of a fag packet" – which might explain your absence, not to mention the prime minister's, from the scrutiny of broadcast media today.

Throughout this Parliament, the Labour Party has argued that the weaknesses in school oversight have left our children exposed to falling standards and undesirable influences upon their learning. I have announced that under the next Labour government, all schools will be subject to support and monitoring by a nationwide network of directors of school standards, which will work at a local level.

Both you and your predecessor have point-blank refused to take the level of action required. Instead of a far-reaching solution, as set out by Labour, we have seen piecemeal climbdowns, ending in a very poorly-written Daily Mail piece by the prime minister that fails to learn the lessons of either the Trojan Horse scandal or the successes of the last Labour government’s London Challenge scheme.

So, can you please confirm or deny that regional schools commissioners will be responsible for the oversight of around 2,500 schools each?

Given that they will now be in charge of uniform and homework policy at each school, do you regard this level of micromanagement as credible? If you disagree with this figure, please confirm the number of schools within each regional school commissioner’s purview?

Secondly, for the avoidance of doubt, can you confirm or deny the Daily Telegraph report: "School commissioners will have the power to fire headteachers on the spot and punish bad behaviour, David Cameron has announced". Is this correct or do the legally binding contracts between schools and their headteachers remain?

Third, both you and the prime minister announced in your respective speeches at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that you stood by your unqualified teacher policy, despite the prime minister writing today, "we will get more brilliant teachers into the schools that need them most". His words ring hollow in light of the 16 per cent increase in the number of unqualified teachers in our schools in the past year. So, can you confirm whether the National Teaching Service recruits will be comprised of qualified or unqualified teachers?

Finally, on 28 July the schools minister Lord Nash announced that, "There is no role for regional school commissioners on maintained schools; that is a role for local authorities, and, as I say, we have clarified their role". Could you please explain when you "unclarified" the role? And what conversation have you had with the chief whip on this policy shift?

I look forward to receiving your response. Although after four years of indecision and chaos, I have to say it is very late in the day for you to relaunch your schools policy.

Tristram Hunt
Labour’s shadow education secretary


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