Chalk Talk: Free schools and fisticuffs

Just a few thoughts about the latest controversy over the Government's flagship free schools scheme.

It all began at about the time TV historian Tristram Hunt took over from Stephen Twigg as the Labour shadow Education Secretary and his first interview – intriguingly with the Mail on Sunday (hardly the best friend of his leader) – was widely interpreted as a sign of a thaw in the Labour attitude towards the scheme.

It must, therefore, have come as a shock when, in a Commons debate on the Al-Madinah Muslim free school in Derby – described as "dysfunctional" by inspectors – Hunt branded the programme as a "dangerous free-for-all" and an "out-of-control ideological experiment".

If I were Michael Gove, I would prefer a return the days of Labour hating free schools! To be fair to Hunt, though, the comments made in his interview were just a repeat of something announced by his predecessor three months before.

Meanwhile, schools minister David Laws is put on the spot when his boss, Nick Clegg, came out against a key element of the programme and insisted that free schools and academies should employ qualified teachers. Just days earlier, Laws had been in the Commons extolling the virtue of allowing them to employ non-qualified teachers. He told MPs: "If I went to the House of Commons in Michael Gove's absence to take this urgent question [on free schools] and gave the view of the Liberal Democrat Party, he would be entitled, when he came back, to be a little upset. If the Labour Party ever needs to be in a coalition, you will find yourself voting for things that wouldn't be your first preference." Which, roughly translated, means – I think – "I didn't mean what I said."

Personally, I do see some merit in free schools being allowed to appoint non-qualified teachers to teach things like sport, drama and dance, but not being allowed to go down the road of packing their schools with non-qualified staff.

I doubt if we're in the mood for that kind of sensible consensus now, though.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before