At last, some proper policy from Labour. But is it enough from the man who might replace Michael Gove? - 17th June 2013
It may have taken three years, but Labour's education spokesman has finally revealed at least part of his policy hand this morning.
In his most detailed speech to date, Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary and therefore the man with a fighting chance of taking over from education secretary for England Michael Gove in less than two years, set out plans to give every school the freedoms currently enjoyed by academies and free schools.
Speaking at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Mr Twigg said he wanted to make three "radical" reforms by broadening academy and free school freedoms to all schools, devolving more power to local communities and ensuring greater collaboration between schools.
"Why should we deny those freedoms to thousands of schools? All schools should have them not just academies and free schools," he said.
Mr Twigg also announced:
- Dropping the free school programme and replacing it with "parent academies".
- A review led by former education secretary David Blunkett looking into how local authorities could play a greater role in monitoring school performance.
- All schools must partner with weaker ones as a requirement for receiving an outstanding rating from England's schools inspectorate Ofsted.
- Changes to the admissions code to allow all schools to prioritise children in receipt of the pupil premium, not just academies.
In pinpointing the need for better local accountability, Mr Twigg has highlighted a serious flaw in Mr Gove's education reforms. Mr Gove has made much of the fact he is handing more powers to schools, but in creating a huge number of academies he has effectively put more schools under his direct control than any other education secretary before him.
Under Labour's proposals, Mr Blunkett would explore ways in which more accountability could be handed back to the local communities each school serves.
Greater emphasis on collaboration is also likely to be applauded by principals, as many see the creation of free schools and the expansion of academies as promoting competition.
The announcement of "parent academies" is likely to raise eyebrows, however. Mr Twigg has struggled to define where he stands on free schools, applauding some (such as former Tony Blair adviser Peter Hyman's School 21) while criticising others.
From the brief outline given, parent academies - academies started by parents in areas of need - appear to be free schools under a new name. The only differences being that any type of school could be created, and every school would require qualified teachers, something that is not true in free schools. How this will play out remains to be seen.
As ever, the devil will be in the detail, but at least, two years ahead of the general election, we now have some Labour policies to chew on.
Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think
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