Tag Archives: free schools

Education: 47% of Lib Dems want grammar schools opened up, while clear majorities oppose academies, free schools and for-profit schools

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

Almost half (47%) Lib Dems call for opening up of grammar schools to all children

Thinking about grammar schools and schools that select pupils by ability, which of the following best reflects your views?


Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , and | 80 Comments

Nick (finally) makes his education speech and launches the Coalition’s own ‘Champions League’

Five days after it was pre-briefed, Nick Clegg finally made his speech on A Liberal Vision for Education at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets.

(Morpeth is, by the way, a fantastic school. I visited it for my day-job 18 months ago, and was shown around by two of its pupils, Vanessa and Mahir: the transformational progress of London schools in the past decade is one of the modern wonders of Britain.)

There was little in the speech we didn’t already know. In fact, there was little that wasn’t known last March when Clegg’s “surprise U-turn on free schools” (© …

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David Laws writes… Nick Clegg and I have always been clear that Free Schools must also be fair schools

On Thursday this week, Nick Clegg will set out the Liberal Democrat approach to improving standards in schools.

He will set out what parents and pupils should expect from schools. This is an issue we have worked on together for some time, and which was debated and agreed at our party’s conference this Spring.

The Liberal Democrats are instinctive supporters of freedom, diversity and choice. We believe in giving schools more autonomy and teachers more freedom.

That’s why we have supported extra powers to innovate for free schools and academies and have taken steps in government to extend autonomy for all schools. We …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 31 Comments

Two questions journalists aren’t asking about Nick Clegg’s free schools speech

Nick Clegg’s speech on free schools – setting out the policy approved by the Lib Dem conference last March – has ruffled feathers. Apparently he and David Cameron even had lunch yesterday to discuss this ‘bombshell’ announcement (which in fact won’t be made until a speech this Thursday).

My view (as I set out here on Sunday) is that schools should have the freedom to appoint teachers who lack formal qualifications, though I’d expect these to be the exceptions not the rule in the vast majority of state-funded schools. But I don’t think it’s at all surprising that Nick …

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Clegg on free schools and National Curriculum: no more, no less than party policy. And that’s for better and worse.

No-one should be that surprised by Nick Clegg’s decision to distance the Lib Dems from Michael Gove’s schools policies — specifically that every teacher should be qualified and that every school should teach the national curriculum. After all, what Nick is due to set out in a speech this week is the policy that was voted for overwhelmingly by the party’s conference in March this year.

Here’s what the adopted policy – Every Child Taught by an Excellent Teacher – says about teachers in all schools having qualifications:

All classroom teachers, including in academies and free schools and Further Education

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , and | 31 Comments

Nick Clegg pledges parental guarantee to tackle poor standards in free schools

Clegg WatfordThe Independent on Sunday today reports that Nick Clegg is to criticise Conservative policy on free schools. He will pledge a new parental guarantee in the 2015 Liberal Democrat election manifesto.

It makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.

What’s the point of having a national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let’s teach it in all our schools.

And what’s the point of having brilliant new food standards if only a few schools have to stick to the rules? Let’s have quality food in all our schools.

If the Lib Dems re-enter government, the guarantee will assure parents that their child will be taught by a qualified a teacher. The schools will have to follow the national curriculum and conform to national nutritional standards for school meals.

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What Lib Dem members think about EBacc, academies and free schools

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum before conference to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Narrow backing for replacing GCSEs with EBacc

LDV asked: Nick Clegg and Michael Gove this week announced that the GCSE exams in England will be replaced by a new qualification in core subjects called the English Baccalaureate Certificate from 2017. This will mean a single end-of-course exam sat by almost all pupils and one exam board for core subjects. From …

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , , and | 9 Comments

Simon Wright MP writes… Creationism won’t be taught as fact – Fact!

New Free Schools will not be able to teach Creationism as fact. That sums up precisely what the rest of this article is about. If you just wanted a firm answer as to whether free schools will be able to teach Creationism in science classes, then feel under no pressure to read on. I won’t be offended.

A debate has arisen on this subject following rumours that the new Exemplar Free School intends to teach its students that Creationism is scientific fact. I can confirm, however, that this is not the case.

The 2013 Free Schools application process specifically says creationism, intelligent …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 35 Comments

Opinion: Free schools good, free schools bad?

Liberal Democrats don’t like free schools do they? After all they undermine local authorities and are bad for the democratic accountability of our state school system. They introduce demand as opposed to need for the creation of new schools. Certainly there is some truth in these objections, but the reality is not black and white.

In my ward in LB Camden the Labour administration has refused to take action to meet the shortage of primary school places. They have fudged the issue with figures that show that they are adhering to statutory requirements. I was elected in 2009 and every …

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

Opinion: Keep Free Schools, but make them better

Mark Pack’s question on the future of Lib Dem education policy in light of Free Schools is very timely.

We should rightly be proud of the implementation of the pupil premium; a distinctively liberal policy that will go some way to correcting the inequities of the education system. Our education manifesto for 2015 can’t rely just on advocating a bigger and better pupil premium.

In the medium term it seems likely …

Posted in Op-eds | 31 Comments

Free schools: what should the party’s policy be in 2015?

An empty classroomNews that the National Autistic Society is planning to set up a free school highlights an impending policy dilemma. Currently, the party’s policy is officially one of opposition to free schools. However if, by the time of the 2015 general election, free schools started by popular and worthy organisations such as the National Autistic Society are up and running, would it be either sensible education policy or practical politics simply to say, ‘we don’t like free schools; they have got to go’?

A different option would be …

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Opinion: We have let neoliberals devastate state education, we must not let them do the same to the NHS

To believe the Government’s hype, we are currently experiencing a liberal revolution in England’s education system – powers are being decentralised, with schools given more autonomy to innovate, while new education providers are adding further diversity to the state funded system by joining it through Academy sponsorship.

The uninitiated could be forgiven for believing Michael Gove’s claim that the evidence base shows the structure of the state funded school system is holding education back, as well as his recent assertion that opponents of Academies are “ideologues”, who uphold a “bigoted backward bankrupt ideology of a leftwing establishment that perpetuates division …

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David Laws: Free schools should focus on education, not profit

David Laws is interviewed in the current issue of Attain, a magazine focussed on the independent schools’ sector, where he has the following to say on the issue of whether free schools should be permitted to make profits:

I think it is important that the people who come in and deliver the education should be seen to be doing so for reasons relating to education and delivering an improved quality of education. And I think that the public would be far more suspicious of the free school development if they felt it was about people coming in to make profit out

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Opinion: What do the Lib Dems and the Big Society have in common?

Being a student, I am lucky enough to have very flexible working hours, and I’ve put these to good use this autumn helping with Brian Paddick’s campaign to become the first Lib Dem Mayor of London.

Something I’ve noticed with creeping inevitability about the campaign is the similarities between myself and the other people turning up on Fridays – the vast majority of whom are male and pale like me.

This is symptomatic of a wider problem with volunteer organisations in general, and cuts to the heart of a political philosophical gulf between us and the tories: volunteers are people in a position to volunteer.

While conservatives were perfectly at …

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What Lib Dem members think about ‘free schools’ and who should have most power

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

42% of Lib Dem members reject ‘free schools’

LDV asked: “Free Schools” are new state schools set up by parents, teachers or voluntary groups which are outside the control of local authorities. Which of the following statements best reflects your views on free schools?

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 10 Comments

Opinion: Give Gove the shove

I was asked yesterday what I thought would be the key issues for the Coalition over the next 12 months. Political predictions are always dangerous (what did you predict would be the main stories in August?) but I plunged in and said that education was emerging as a clear division between the Coalition partners.

There has been a great deal over the past few days over the creation of the first free schools. The BBC tells us hourly that they are free from local government control: quite where they (and some politicians in our own Party who should know better) get …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

“Nick Clegg defeats bid by Michael Gove to let free schools make profits”

From today’s Observer:

Nick Clegg has thwarted plans by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to allow the new generation of “free schools” to make profits in the state sector after a massive ideological battle over the coalition’s education policy…

Clegg’s aides say he has also persuaded Gove to amend the admissions code from 2013 to allow free schools and academies to give priority to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds (those on free school meals). Free schools and academies will be expected to do all they can to ensure that, as a minimum, they have the same amount of pupils on free school meals

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The Saturday Debate: Local government is to the Lib Dems what the unions are to Labour and big business is to the Tories

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

I was struck by this recent article by the Economist’s political columnist Bagehot, headlined When progressive actually means misanthropic, reflecting on the Lib Dem conference, and specifically the debate on free schools.

Highlighting that, while the party may have lacked power at Westminster, the Lib Dems have for decades now been a major player in local government, it observes that:

… local government occupies much of the mental space taken up by national politics in the Labour and Conservative parties. … more

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Opinion: Looking through the tea leaves of Liverpool

What a strange few months it’s been for the Liberal Democrats. In Bournemouth a year ago, few LibDems would have truly believed that this was to be their last annual conference in opposition.

My sense of the mood in Liverpool this year was that it matched the political and economic times we live in. Serious, but somewhat apprehensive. There seemed a lot of quiet satisfaction – although never smugness – that there were Liberal Democrats in government, but a nervousness about what the “end game” might be.

A few things truly surprised me. Support for the principle of entering Coalition with the Conservatives was close to unanimous. A straw poll at the IEA’s fringe meeting showed about 95% felt that Nick Clegg had made the right decision in those tense few days after the General Election. The national media were, of course, on the look out for any sign of coalition-fatigue, but seemed initially disappointed – and then rather impressed – about the absence of much strategic dissent.

But looking through the tea leaves of Liverpool, there are some longer term issues which the party will have to address.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 10 Comments

So how was it for you?

Well fellow Lib Dems, Bloggers and Tweeps… what did you make of conference then? Having been granted the honour of being “Guest Editor” (quaking in me boots it has to be said!) I thought, given the timing, it may be an opportunity to reflect on the last week in Liverpool.

What I want to do is to try and get a feel from members across the spectrum of our party, has conference left them feeling uplifted, confused, motivated, anxious, hopeful, proud?
I hope what follows today, especially for those of you who weren’t there, will give you a bit of …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 27 Comments

Clegg: Lib Dems ‘misunderstand’ schools policy

That’s the Channel 4 News headline tonight, and it seems a fair reflection of Nick Clegg’s interview with Jon Snow this evening:

As I tried to explain in my speech yesterday, some of the misgivings expressed in the conference hall I genuinely think slightly misunderstand what the government policy is going to do. I think there is a misunderstanding bluntly between what the free schools proposal is alleged to be trying to do and what it will actually do. It won’t be taking resources and people and attention away from other schools… and crucially, as I stressed in my speech yesterday, it won’t do what would be genuinely divisive. It won’t be introducing selection through the back door, which I’m staunchly opposed to.”

You can see Nick’s interview here:

Posted in Conference | Also tagged and | 35 Comments

Recent Comments

  • David Langshaw
    Just to add to the Singapore imagery, it's worth remembering that the Japanese advanced all the way down the Malayan peninsula on bicycles....
  • Geoff Reid
    In the midst of the alarms and excursions of an election campaign - and the necessary simplifications - it is very refreshing to be reminded of the ground on wh...
  • Bill Le Breton
    Fantastic piece. Thank you....
  • Neil Hickman
    Sadly, Martin, I fear you’re right. Labour apparatchiks would far rather a monopoly Labour government than one dependent on the Lib Dem’s (and kept honest ...
  • Martin Gray
    If Labour - as predicted win by a landslide I can't see a change in the voting system anytime soon. PCC and local elections have a poor turnout - no amount of a...