Schools choice issue returns to haunt Labour

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The Independent Online
LOUISE JURY

The Labour Party last night faced renewed accusations of hypocrisy after it emerged that one of the architects of its education policy, Professor Michael Barber, had decided to send his daughter to an independent school.

Professor Barber, a former Labour chair of education in the London borough of Hackney, defended his "difficult" decision, but Tories leapt upon it to resurrect recent rows over schools. Harriet Harman, the party's health spokeswoman, came under fire for sending her son to a grammar school and Tony Blair for choosing a grant-maintained school for his.

The professor, an adviser from the University of London's Institute for Education, decided not to send his 11-year-old daughter Alys to Haggerston Girls School in Hackney, of which he is a governor, "following vigorous debate within the family".

His wife had "not been impressed by the education received by one of two older daughters at a London comprehensive school", and was adamant that Alys should get the best opportunity. They were considering offers from independent and selective grant-maintained schools.

Conservatives said the decision highlighted the difference between Labour Party policy and the decisions members made for their own children.

Graham Riddick, MP for Colne Valley and a member of the Commons Education Select Committee, said: "This is another example of the Labour Party and those associated with it taking advantage of Conservative choice in education while at the same time advocating policies that would deny other parents that same choice."

However, David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, dismissed the jibes and added: "Professor Barber is not a politician or a Member of Parliament. He is an individual."

Peter Mandelson, MP for Hartlepool and a key adviser to Tony Blair, said if Labour had said it would abolish grammar schools or "wind up" the private sector then it would be hypocritical for Labour politicians or supporters to send their children to those schools. "But we're not saying that, so that's not hypocrisy," he told Sky News.

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