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Education News

Stephen Twigg: Labour would let all schools choose curriculum, not just free schools and academies

Under new proposals, they would also be allowed to extend the school term

Every state school in the country will be able to choose its own curriculum and lengthen term times if Labour wins the next general election, the shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, will pledge.

In a speech at the Royal Society of Art this morning, Mr Twigg will give a promise that Labour will extend to all schools the freedoms Education Secretary Michael Gove currently reserves for flagship free schools and academies.

The pledge will give all schools freedom to determine their own curriculum - so long as the teach the core subjects of English, maths and science and deliver a "broad and balanced" curriculum.

In addition, they will be allowed to extend the school term - if they want to cut into the school holidays to offer pupils extra time to improve their performance

All schools will also have the freedom to buy in services - such as special education needs and tailor made extra support services for struggling pupils - from whoever they want.

"Today I am setting ou how Labour will bring order to the chaos Michael Gove has created in our school system," Mr Twigg will say.

"We will putan end to the fragmented divisive system under the Government and ensure that every school can excel and every child is given a great education.   ...  Why should we deny these freedom to thousands of pupils?  A school should not have to change its structure just to gain freedom."

One freedom offered to free schools and academies by Mr Gove will be restricted, though - the freedom to hire unqualified teachers.  Mr Gove says this is helping schools to employ expert musicians and peopple involved the arts, for instance, to take arts lessons.

Labour will insist in future that all staff must either be qualified teachers or take steps to become qualified teachers once they are appointed.

Mr Twigg will add: "Many academies will say freedom to innovate in the curriculum has given their teachers a new sense of confidence and professionalism.  All young people should benefit from the positive impact this brings .

"Where a community school wants to offer longer school terms so it can offer extra classes to improver results why should they have to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops when academies can - working with parents - change their term dates to deliver better education? "

Mr Twigg will stress that the changes he plans fits in with his party leader Ed Miliband's "one nation" vision for the country.

He will also pledge incentives to schools to work in collaboration with others in partnerships or federations to help them spread good practice throughout the education system, saying Mr Gove had "talked the talk" on this with his plans to put a day on all "outstanding" schools transferring to academy status to help weaker, struggling schools.  However, at present, he will add, nearly two-thirds of academies are not in a partnership.

Mr Twigg has already promised he will not close free schools set up under the current government if they are doing a good job.