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Liberal Democrat News 9th September 2011

September 9, 2011 9:31 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
  • Norman Lamb introduces the policity priorities debate, Facing the Future, that will take place at the Federal Conference in Birmingham
  • The Violence Against Women and Girls motion to Conference is endorsed by Tom Brake
  • and more information about the HQ move

Clegg stands firm on Free Schools

Free schools will not be "the preserve of the privileged few" and new measures will ensure that access to high quality education is fair for all. After the speech made by the Deputy Prime Minister on Monday, Liberal Democrats can be under no illusion as to the objective of the Free Schools policy as far as he is concerned - it is to improve social mobility.
In a far-ranging speech, Nick set out the proposals quite clearly - they include:

  • No school in the state sector, including free schools and academies, should ever be run
    for profit.
  • From September 2013, all schools, including free schools and academies, will be allowed to prioritise applicants who qualify for the Pupil Premium.
  • Local authorities should remain a crucial lynchpin in the education system. Currently, academies are directly accountable to the Secretary of State for Education. The government wants to ensure there is local democratic accountability for all schools. This could include maintaining the role for local authorities in areas such as deciding who new providers are and holding academies and free schools more sharply to account.
  • Excluded pupils will no longer be left behind. The government will work with headteachers and local authorities to find ways for schools to take responsibility for finding alternative education, training or employment for pupils they exclude, and they could remain on the performance tables for the school that excludes them.

The Deputy Prime Minister also urged schools to look at innovative ways in which the extra resources from the Pupil Premium could be used to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as intensive, individual tuition or effective feedback, and making sure that new free schools are established in the poorest areas, where schools are oversubscribed and they offer the greatest benefit.
Nick made clear that teachers alone cannot be responsible for a child's development and discipline. He urged parents to look closely at their domestic routine, such as bedtimes, discipline on homework and reading time, to see where small differences could make a huge difference to their education.

"The Coalition Government's twin ambitions for our education system are a decent start for every child and a good local school for every family," he said. "That may sound basic, but it's absolutely fundamental to creating a fair society in which young people can strive to do better.

"It is vital that schools take responsibility for the ongoing education of all of their pupils and that parents do their bit in return. Parents, children and communities benefit from innovation, diversity, and choice. One size fits no-one. That's part of the rationale behind free schools.

"Let me be clear what I want to see from free schools. I want them to be available to the whole community - open to all children. I want them to be part of a school system that releases opportunity, rather than entrenching it.

"They must not be the preserve of the privileged few - creaming off the best pupils while leaving the rest to fend for themselves. Let me give you my assurance - I would never tolerate that. Free schools, yes, but only if they are fair schools too.

"And, to anyone who is worried that, by expanding the mix of providers in our education system we are inching towards inserting the profit motive into our school system, again, let me reassure you - yes to greater diversity; yes to more choice for parents. But no to running schools for profit, not in our state-funded education sector."

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