Nick Clegg’s split with Tories over free schools and academies opens rift with Lib Dems colleagues

Lib Dem leader set to attack Conservative policy on educational institutions that don't have to meet core standards

Nick Clegg’s split from the his Conservative Coalition partners on free schools appears to be turning into a rift with members of his own party, after surprised Tory MPs highlighted apparent policy differences between the Deputy Prime Minister and his Liberal Democrat colleagues.

Mr Clegg warned voters that they cannot expect the two governing political parties to agree all the time, as the Lib Dem leader insisted that teachers in the newly created free school should be properly qualified.

He was deliberately putting himself at a distance from the Conservatives, whose Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has encouraged free schools to hire people from outside the teaching profession with specialist knowledge who “can inspire their pupils”.

Leading Tories privately admitted on Sunday that they were caught completely unawares by Mr Clegg’s comments – which he will deliver in a speech on Thursday – as they appeared in Sunday newspapers.

Mr Clegg will say: “It makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.” He will also argue that free schools should have to stick to the national curriculum and that their school meals should have to meet standards set by the Government.”

But some leading Liberal Democrats see this as an issue on which they can show they are on the side of parents who want a choice for their children, not on the side of the teaching unions.

Tories were quick to point out the contrast with what his fellow Lib Dem, the Schools Minister David Laws, told MPs during a debate on free schools last Thursday.

Mr Laws said: “There are plenty of teachers who may not have formal qualifications but who still do a superb job.” He added that despite the recent highly publicised failure of the Al-Madinah free school in Derby and the resignations this month of two free school heads, the “vast majority” of free schools “have done an absolutely fantastic job”.

Mr Clegg played down the apparent split, saying Mr Laws was stating “the policy of the Department for Education”. A source close to Mr Clegg said: “David has been instrumental in helping to write this speech. He’s one of Nick’s closest political allies – that’s well established. David has been involved every step of the way.”

But Jeremy Browne, the former Lib Dem Home Office minister sacked by Mr Clegg this month, warned against the Lib Dems becoming “a pale imitation of the Labour Party” and told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme; “I support free schools. I am interested in how we can innovate, how we improve our educational outcomes … in this country.”

A Department of Education made it clear that Michael Gove has no intention of changing policy because of Nick Clegg’s intervention. A spokesperson said: “Free schools are are run by teachers – not local bureaucrats or Westminster politicians – and are free to set their own curriculum, decide how they spend their money and employ who they think are the best people for the job.… This Government is not going to take these freedoms away.”

Case study: Broadening my daughter’s horizons with Latin, travel and music convinced me

Latin, music and the chance to travel the world were among the reasons why Valerie John chose to send her daughter, Ella, to the West London Free School, established by the journalist Toby Young in 2011.

Ms John said teachers of subjects such as English and maths should be qualified, but exceptions could be made for sports and drama teachers “if they’ve got the experience”.

However, she said: “We should be allowed to choose what we want to teach. That’s the whole purpose of having a free school.

“I think they need to use our school as an example of what you’re aiming for.

* Teachers urge action on crisis in recruitment

More than 170 academics and teachers’ leaders – including Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers – have signed a letter to The Independent urging Education Secretary Michael Gove to take urgent action over the growing shortage of school places and the crisis in teacher recruitment. However, a spokesman for the Department for Education said it had hit 95 per cent of its recruitment target this year.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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 Education

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Foundation Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...

Psychology Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Psychology An en...

Geography Teacher

£19200 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?