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News - 18 June 2013

Labour says no more Free Schools

The labour party's education spokesman, Stephen Twigg, said there would be no more free schools opened by a future Labour government, but existing free schools could stay open and that all state schools in England should have the same rights given to academies.

In a major policy speech Mr Twigg has taken a significant step towards setting out the opposition's schools policy. Free schools, set up by parents and other groups, would no longer be created under Labour.

The more than 80 free schools already open and those in the pipeline would continue to be funded, says Mr Twigg, but beyond that point new schools would have to be created as academies.

Under his blueprint, academies and local authority schools would have similar levels of autonomy. Mr Twigg described the plans using a phrase associated with Tony Blair's early years in office: "Standards not structures."

Mr Twigg said:
"We know that giving schools more freedom over how they teach and how they run and organise their schools can help to raise standards. So why should we deny those freedoms to thousands of schools? All schools should have them, not just academies and free schools."

Since Labour left office in 2010, more than half of secondary schools in England have become self-governing academies, and rather than reversing this tide, Mr Twigg says that all schools should share similar degrees of autonomy.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“Academies, state-funded schools which operate outside of local authority control, can set their own curriculum and decide their own school terms and the length of school days. Many academies say freedom to innovate in the curriculum has given their teachers a new sense of confidence and professionalism."

A Department for Education source dismissed Labour's policy announcements, saying free schools would continue "in all but name".

"Labour policy on free schools is still confused. On the one hand Twigg says he will end the free school programme, but on the other he says he would set up 'parent-led and teacher-led academies' - free schools under a different name."

General Secretary of the ASCL head teachers' union, Brian Lightman, welcomed the continuity suggested by Labour's plans to extend academies rather than reinvent the school system.

"The last thing schools need is yet more turmoil caused by rushed reforms," said Mr Lightman,”

If you need any help and advice with Free School or Academy Schools, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
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