Nick Clegg promises head teacher 'champions league'
Nick Clegg has promised to set up a "champions league" of head teachers to be brought in to sort out failing schools in England.
In a speech, the deputy prime minister said experienced staff could join a "pool of top talent" which would be "ready to move" at short notice.
He also said free schools and academies must only employ professionally qualified teachers.
Labour said voters could not trust what Mr Clegg said on this subject.
England's free schools are small in number compared with the thousands of other state-funded schools, but they certainly grab a lot of headlines and inspire a lot of passion in some quarters.
The government says free schools will drive up standards and give parents more choice of good schools by putting more power in head teachers' hands, while some critics see them as an experimental 'vanity project' which has led to schools being built where they are not needed.
Since September 2011, 174 have opened.
Getting to this point did involve compromise on behalf of the Lib Dems. Although they like the idea of parents and other groups setting up schools, they seem to believe they are too free.
The party is now attempting to show its supporters - and future voters - where it differs from its coalition partners.
Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4 Today's programme that unqualified teachers currently working in schools would not be sacked under his proposals, but would instead be given the opportunity to "seek qualifications while you are teaching".
He said the rules would not apply to private schools, which also employ teachers without professional qualifications, because "you pay your fees and you take your choice", but children using taxpayer-funded schools had a right to expect basic standards.
Before the coalition relaxed the rules, state-funded schools could only employ teachers on a permanent basis if they had completed teacher training, regardless of their other qualifications or experience.
The number of unqualified teachers in free schools and academies has gone up from 2,200 in 2010 to 5,300 last year, according to Education Department figures, although the overall number of unqualified teachers in the state sector as a whole has fallen.'Differences'
In his speech, Mr Clegg announced that, from September next year, the government would create a "programme to get outstanding leaders into the schools that need them the most".
The team would be made up of head teachers and deputy heads, with recruitment beginning soon, he said.
Parts of the Liberal Democrat leader's speech had been heavily trailed in the media for several days, particularly his expression of differences with the Conservatives over free schools, which are state-funded but autonomous.
He acknowledged "differences of opinion, some strongly held", stating that his party wants all schools to follow the national curriculum, guarantee food standards and employ only qualified teachers.
WHAT ARE FREE SCHOOLS?
- Semi-independent, state-funded schools set up in England, since the Coalition came to power
- Can be set up by groups including parents, charities, religious bodies and businesses, once a business plan and demand is demonstrated
- Funded by central government
- Independent from local councils
- Heads have more control over curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions and the length of school terms and days.
- Like academies, do not have to follow national curriculum but have to offer a 'broad and balanced curriculum'
- Answerable to the Department for Education
- Checked by Ofsted
- 174 in England (by September 2013)
He said this "view has sparked quite a bit of excitement this week - and criticism", but added that he wants parents to make their educational choices "safe in the knowledge that there are certain safeguards".
Downing Street has taken issue with the Lib Dem position on free schools, saying that, as recently as last week, Lib Dem schools minister David Laws had said he was "100% behind" the policy.
But Mr Clegg said: "I am totally unapologetic that the Liberal Democrats have our own ideas."
Labour's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "Nick Clegg will be judged on what he does, not what he says.
"Whatever he says about free schools today, the truth is this divisive policy is his - enacted by his Tory-led government because of his help and support."