Education & Family

Ed Balls says deprived schools are being 'abandoned'

Ed Balls
Image caption Ed Balls accused the government of switching support from deprived areas to the more affluent

Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls has accused the coalition government of "abandoning" the schools and pupils most in need of support.

He criticised the opening of free schools, while hundreds of school building projects had been scrapped.

In a Labour conference speech, Mr Balls said the academy scheme had also switched from helping deprived areas to benefiting the already advantaged.

The government is set to announce its pupil premium for deprived pupils.

Mr Balls accused the Education Secretary Michael Gove of switching support from pupils in challenging areas to giving more to successful schools in affluent areas.

And he attacked the Liberal Democrats as a "human shield" for the coalition's education policy.

In response, a spokesman for Mr Gove highlighted the gap in attainment between rich and poor pupils under the previous government.

'National challenge'

Mr Balls contrasted the scrapping of 700 Building Schools for the Future projects with the government's encouragement for opening free schools.

"What really upsets me is that as Michael Gove is dashing the hopes of children in state schools around our country, he and David Cameron are also travelling round promising new school buildings to a few parents but only if they are willing to opt out of the state system and any relationship with the elected local authority and set up one of their go-it-alone DIY 'free market' schools," Mr Balls told the conference.

Mr Balls also highlighted how the focus of academies had been changed.

"Our academies programme gave more help and support to underperforming schools in the most disadvantaged communities. But Michael Gove's academies programme gives extra resources to outstanding schools in more advantaged communities."

Mr Balls also reminded the conference of the Labour government's drive to raise the standards of the lowest-performing schools.

The "national challenge" programme set a target to ensure that all secondary schools reached at least 30% of pupils getting five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

This summer's results showed that only one in 20 schools were now below this threshold, said Mr Balls.

A spokesman for Mr Gove rejected the accusation that the coalition government was turning its back on children in disadvantaged areas.

He said the record under Mr Balls was "a huge gap in attainment between the richest and poorest students, discipline out of control and standards falling against the best in the world".

"The coalition government is giving teachers the powers they need to keep discipline, reversing the devaluation of the curriculum and exam system and introducing a pupil premium which will mean extra money for the poorest pupils, a policy which Ed Balls opposed.

"We are working closely with successful providers to identify new projects where academies will replace underperforming schools, to add to the substantial range of projects already in progress."

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