David Laws admits his heart wasn't in his defence of Government's free schools policy


Schools minister David Laws admitted on Wednesday his heart might not have been in a robust defence of the Government’s policy made in the wake of a damning inspectors’ report on a Muslim free school.

Liberal Democrat MP Mr Laws faced a grilling by members of the Commons Select Committee on Education as his party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg put the finishing touches on a speech to be made on Thursday set to be critical of aspects of the free schools policy.

In particular, he is anxious that free schools should abide by the national curriculum and that parents should have a guarantee that their children are taught by a professionally trained teacher.

In the wake of the report by education standards watchdog Ofsted on the Al-Madinah school in Derby criticising the school for having too few trained staff, Mr Laws defended the Government’s policy of allowing its free schools and academies to employ non-trained teachers.

However, he told the MPs: “If I went to the House of Commons in Michael Gove’s absence (the Education Secretary was abroad) to take an urgent question on free schools and gave the view of the Liberal Democrat party, I think he would be entitled when he came back to be a little bit upset.

“If the Labour party ever needs to be in a coalition, you will find yourself occasionally voting for things that wouldn’t be your first preference.  Coalition demands compromises.”

He said he supported - and had helped draft - a motion at the Liberal Democrat conference calling for an entitlement for parents to have excellent teachers and for staff without qualifications to be working towards them.

Mr Clegg is expected to say on Thursday: “It makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.”