Blair's school choice heralds policy rethink

Labour moved closer to pledging not to abolish grant-maintained schools yesterday, as the party's leader, Tony Blair, defended his decision to choose such a school for his own son.

As first reported in the Independent in June, Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, have applied to send Euan, 10, to a grant-maintained Catholic comprehensive school, London Oratory, in Fulham, eight miles from their Islington home.

Yesterday, Mr Blair said he did not want his choice to become a political football. He told BBC Breakfast News: ''We want to get the best for our child from the schools for which the school he is at at the moment is a feeder school.''

Amid signs that Labour was speeding up efforts to formulate a policy on grant-maintained schools David Blunkett, the party's education spokesman, said: ''The truth is that [Mr Blair's] child could have gone to this school under previous Labour or Conservative governments.''

Mr Blunkett insisted Labour policy had not changed ''one iota'', although he used markedly less abrasive language yesterday to describe grant-maintained schools than that used in this summer's Labour Green Paper on education.

An aide said a Labour government would not permit any new grant-maintained schools, but that the party was ''not in the business of prohibition''. However, it would insist on the ''maximum amount of equitable treatment'' over funding.

Mr Blunkett said: ''We believe all schools must be treated equitably by a Labour government, building on the diversity of management and organisation which has always been a feature of our education system. That is why I have announced my intention to open discussion with representatives of all schools.''

Ministers were quick to exploit the Blair family's choice of school. Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, said the Blairs had passed up the chance to send Euan to 50 other schools nearer to their home.

''Mr and Mrs Blair's decision will cause huge embarrassment to his Labour colleagues, who will face the impossible task of squaring this decision with the party's words,'' she said.

''Quite how they will bring their Labour local education authority colleagues on board with this astonishing volte face remains to be seen. Or maybe it is merely that they are prepared to exercise choice for their own children which they have voted to deny to others.''

Middle-class dilemma, page 3

Leading article, page 17

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable