UK Politics

A Labour government 'would review planned free schools'

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Media captionStephen Twigg says free schools would remain open should Labour win the next election

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg says a Labour government would review the case for each of the 180 free schools scheduled to open in the year of the next election.

Decisions depended on how far advanced the plans were and whether they were in locations with school place shortages.

Mr Twigg told the BBC that he did not like free schools, but he was not intending to close any that were open.

Instead they would have to become part of the "local community of schools".

Mr Twigg told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that he would also change the rules for free schools so they could no longer employ unqualified teachers.

This would bring them into line with other schools., he said.

In the government's Spending Review last week it announced funding for the year starting in April 2015 - a few weeks before the next election - for 180 new free schools.

Mr Twigg said that decisions on whether to go ahead with these schools would depend on how much had already been spent on creating the new schools, and whether they were in locations with a need for more school places.

It was put to Mr Twigg that Labour's policy on free schools was confusing - especially because of its plan to let parents set up academy schools.

Local control

He said: "The policy is very clear. The policy is about having good schools in every community and not being fixated, as this government is, on one type of school over another.

"If you want a new school now it has to be a free school. That doesn't make sense. You can have a good maintained school, a good academy, a good trust school. Why is it that the government thinks the only way you can get good new schools is through their free schools programme?"

Mr Twigg also said that Labour's proposed new schools were different from free schools because they would not allow unqualified teachers to be employed and "because decisions are going to be made at a local level - not overriding local communities".

"I've been to visit communities where communities overwhelmingly didn't want the school to be created - that doesn't make any sense."

Former Labour MP and foreign secretary David Miliband, who has not trained as a teacher, has been teaching classes at his old school, but Mr Twigg denied this would not be allowed under his rule change.

"There is a world of difference of a Member of Parliament spending half a day doing some teaching in their school and people being employed full time on the school roll.

"I've done it myself. Teach First, which is a fantastic organisation that we supported when I was a minister, has a week in which politicians and others can go in and teach.

"I spent an hour teaching a year nine class in Holly Lodge school in my constituency, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about schools taking on full time staff who are not qualified."

The government says that free schools are proving popular and new schools "encourage the ones which already exist to raise their game".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Free schools are proving highly popular with families who expect better than the old 'take it or leave it' offer they used to get from the council."

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