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News - 20 October 2013

Coalition can’t agree on teachers and Free schools

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that schools should only employ qualified teachers and must adhere to the national curriculum. He said this was so parents could be sure their children were receiving a high standard of education.  Currently free schools have discretion over what to teach, but in his speech to a school in north London, Mr Clegg said: "What's the point of having a national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it?"

However, Conservative education minister Elizabeth Truss has rejected his calls for tighter controls on free schools in England, and said it was a "shame" some Lib Dems did not back free schools. She said the "whole point" of the schools "is they have these freedoms... that is what's helping them outperform maintained schools".

Mrs Truss noted that independent schools "operate well" without being made to hire qualified teachers and have done so "for hundreds of years".

A Downing Street spokesman said that the Lib Dem schools minister David Laws had said he was "100% behind the coalition's free schools policy.

Under plans announced by Labour, parent groups and other organisations would be able to set up schools outside local council control, although local authorities would have greater powers to intervene when there were concerns about standards.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“Free schools, set up by parents and other groups, are state-funded but operate outside local authority control. They were established under a policy pioneered by Education Secretary Michael Gove and since September 2011 more than 170 have opened across England.

There have been problems, such as the controversy when the al-Madinah free school in Derby was judged by the education watchdog Ofsted to be "inadequate", and the head teacher of a free primary school in London, who was still studying for her postgraduate certificate in education, stood down following criticism from Labour councillors.

A Department for Education spokesman argued that free schools were "raising standards and giving parents more choice".

He said the government was not going to take away the freedom free schools have for teachers to "set their own curriculum, decide how they spend their money and employ who they think are the best people for the job".

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.

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