Nick Clegg calls for more safeguards on free schools to 'guarantee' minimum standards
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 24 October 2013
The Coalition's decision to hand more freedom to individual schools must be underpinned by more safeguards to “guarantee” minimum standards, Nick Clegg will declare today.
The Deputy Prime Minister will accuse the Conservatives of double standards as he calls for academies and free schools to be forced to employ only qualified teachers and teach the national curriculum like other schools.
Although Tory ministers are furious about his departure from Coalition policy, an unrepentant Mr Clegg will argue that there is no conflict between autonomy for schools and higher standards. “I'm proud of the work over the last three years to increase school autonomy,” he will say in a speech in London.
“Although we work well with the Conservatives, our two parties still have differences of opinion - some strongly held. And looking to the future, there are aspects of schools policy currently affected by the priorities of the Conservative Party which I would not want to see continue.”
Calling for “a parental guarantee” that every school meets core standards of teaching and care, the Liberal Democrat leader will say that parents do not care about a school's label. “What they want, and expect, is that their children are taught by good teachers, get taught a core body of knowledge, and get a healthy meal every day,” he will say.
Mr Clegg will say the Conservatives want to “micro-manage” which ancient British kings are taught in maintained schools. “All that I ask is that we seek to deliver the same balance of freedoms and core standards in all schools,” he will say.
He will announce the creation of a “champions league” pool of “superheads” and deputy heads ready to move into failing schools from September next year. Volunteers will be given help to relocate to the area of the schools they try to turn round.
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