Special report: Coalition in crisis over free schools and academies

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

Free schools and academies must employ qualified teachers, Nick Clegg will demand this week, in the first break with the Conservatives on education policy under the coalition government.

The Deputy Prime Minister will deliver a hard-hitting speech that will put pressure on the Conservatives over the lack of appropriately qualified teachers in free schools, including the crisis-hit Al-Madinah school in Derby.

Mr Clegg will pledge a new "parental guarantee" in the Liberal Democrat election manifesto, reassuring parents that their child's teacher will be qualified if the party is in government after 2015. Under the guarantee, free schools and academies would also have to stick to the national curriculum and follow nutritional standards for school meals. The policy puts the Lib Dems at loggerheads with David Cameron and Michael Gove and aligns them more closely with Labour on education.

In a clear dig at Mr Gove, the Education Secretary, Mr Clegg will declare: "Parents don't want ideology to get in the way of their children's education."

His challenge comes as a poll for The Independent on Sunday reveals today that just over a quarter of people believe that parents, teachers and charities should be encouraged to set up new free schools even if there are already schools in the local area. The ComRes poll found that 36 per cent are against, while 37 per cent don't know.

The coalition split over one of the most contentious areas of schools policy emerged as research shows a dramatic rise in the number of unqualified teachers in free schools and academies, rising by 141 per cent in three years. Labour figures showed that one teacher in every 10 in free schools does not have a teaching qualification, or nearly 5,300 individuals across all non-maintained schools. At the same time, there are 6,000 vacancies for teachers in all state-funded schools, suggesting an impending crisis in the profession.

Under current policy implemented by Mr Gove, all schools free from local authority control, including the controversial free schools, can employ staff without teaching qualifications, do not have to adhere to the national curriculum and do not have to follow nutritional standards. This last "freedom" has enraged chef and nutrition campaigner Jamie Oliver, who says the concept of a healthy meal is being eroded in academies and free schools. But it is the area of teaching qualifications that is the most controversial. In the past few weeks, there have been high-profile cases in which teaching staff, including headteachers, of free schools have been forced to step down after criticisms by Ofsted that they were unqualified or underskilled.

The Al-Madinah Free School in Derby is currently closed after being classed by inspectors as inadequate and the headteacher underqualified. Pimlico Primary Academy lost its 27-year-old headteacher, who also had no formal qualifications in the profession, earlier this month. The headteacher of a third school, the Discovery New School, a Montessori primary in Crawley, West Sussex, has stood down in the past few days. Ofsted classed this school as inadequate for having staff without the right skills and leadership for the education of children. Earlier this year, Ofsted said that Lindsey Snowdon, the head of the Discovery school, "lacks the skills and knowledge to improve teaching". Mrs Snowdon resigned last week.

In a speech on Thursday, Mr Clegg will unveil a Liberal Democrat manifesto promise that all free schools and academies must adhere to the national curriculum and employ staff with qualified teacher status, or be working towards a qualification, such as under the fast-track Teach First programme.

Lib Dem sources said ministers had raised the "parental guarantee" policy with their Tory counterparts, with the suggestion that it could be implemented this parliament, but recognised this was something that was "never going to happen" under a Conservative-led government.

Instead, the Lib Dems will make it one of the key pledges of their manifesto for the 2015 general election. The parental guarantee will also ensure that every child has a school meal of high nutritional standards.

The Lib Dems insist that they still strongly support the idea that headteachers of academies and free schools should have increased autonomy, but also that basic standards should not be tossed aside.

The Deputy Prime Minister is expected to say: "We believe greater autonomy enables school leaders to take responsibility in those areas where they know what's best for their pupils, while also giving them the freedom to innovate. But it shouldn't surprise you if I say that, although we work well with the Conservatives, our two parties still have differences of opinion, some strongly held. 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.

"For example, while I want to give schools the space to innovate, I also believe every parent needs reassurance that the school their child attends, whatever its title or structure, meets certain core standards of teaching and care – a parental guarantee, if you like.

"Parents don't want ideology to get in the way of their children's education. They don't care about the latest political label attached to their child's school. 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. What's the point of having a national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let's teach it in all our schools. And what's the point of having brilliant new food standards if only a few schools have to stick to the rules? Let's have quality food in all our schools.

"Diversity among schools, yes. But good universal standards all parents can rely on, too. And, frankly, it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers."

The Al-Madinah Free School was found by Ofsted this month to be "dysfunctional" and inadequate in all areas; "most of the primary school teachers have not taught before" while large numbers of "unqualified staff desperately need better support and training".

Of the 28 state primaries surrounding the Discovery school, 25 had surplus places – underlining fears that some free schools are being set up where there is no demand. Some 16 of those 28 were rated "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted. The Government's own impact assessment of the Discovery school in 2011 claimed that the competition it would provide would encourage surrounding primaries to "raise their performance in order to retain pupils in order to remain financially viable".

Labour has also pledged that teachers in all state-funded schools will have to be qualified or working towards a teaching qualification.

Labour's education spokesman, Tristram Hunt, said: "We only have to look at the mess at Al-Madinah Free School to see how dangerous it is that David Cameron and Michael Gove are allowing unqualified teachers to be permanently employed in our schools. Oftsed found that school to be inadequate on every single measure and too many unqualified teachers were at the heart of its failure."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
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

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?