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News - 14 October 2013

Labour backs parent-led schools.

The new shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, has stated that Labour backs "enterprise and innovation" when it came to increasing school places, and would not shut most existing free schools.

He said a Labour government would push ahead with what it called parent-led academies in areas of educational need.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“Free schools, set up by parents and other groups and operating outside local authority control, have been established under a policy pioneered by Education Secretary Michael Gove; so far more than 170 have been opened across England since September 2011. This new initiative may not be a policy u-turn but it is a definite change of tone from the party which has opposed free schools since Michael Gove first announced them following the 2010 general election. ”

Tory Chairman Grant Shapps said that Labour's policy was unchanged and it still opposed the "popular" schools, regarding the Academy and Free school policies as a 'Vanity project'.

Responding to criticism by the Conservative party, Mr Hunt, who has just taken over from Stephen Twigg as the party's education spokesman, said he regretted previously describing free schools as a "vanity project for yummy mummies".

Citing the case of the Al-Madinah free school in Derby, which was closed for a week earlier this month on the first day of an Ofsted inspection, Mr Hunt said Labour would not allow schools to become an "ideological experiment". "What is going on with the Al-Madinah school is a terrifying example of the mistakes of Michael Gove's education policy," Mr Hunt said.

Under Labour's plans, parent-led academies would enable parent groups and other organisations to set up schools outside local authority control, although local authorities would have greater powers to intervene when there were concerns about standards.

But a Conservative Party spokesman said shadow chancellor Ed Balls had made it clear in a speech in June that the party would curb new schools in areas where there was an "excess" of places.  Mr Balls had suggested a future Labour government would prioritise resources on areas where school places were in "short supply".

Journalist Toby Young, who helped set up a free school in west London, said Mr Hunt had been "less than candid" about Labour's policy as it was considering granting councils the power of veto over free schools in their boroughs.

As recently as June this year, the then shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg pledged that if Labour won the next election it would end the building of free schools and reassert local oversight of academy schools.

Labour say it's not a change in policy, but it is a change of heart for the new shadow education secretary, who as the newly elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent in 2010, described free schools as a "vanity project for yummy mummies".

If you need any help and advice with Free Schools, Academy Schools or Charities, 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.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail: abds@netaccountants.net
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