Coalition divided over free schools and academies

The deputy Prime Minister has demanded that free schools and academies must employ qualified teachers in a split with his Conservative coalition partners.

Nick Clegg delivered a hard-hitting speech that put pressure on the Conservatives over the lack of appropriately qualified teachers in free schools, the Independent reports. It followed research that revealed a 141% rise in the number of unqualified teachers in free schools and academies over three years.

The speech distanced him from Education Secretary Michael Gove and his policy for all schools in England to be free from local authority control, including controversial free schools. This means they can employ staff without teaching qualifications, do not have to adhere to the national curriculum or follow nutritional standards. “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,” Mr. Clegg said. “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.”

Elizabeth Truss, Conservative Education Minister, rejected Mr. Clegg’s demand for tighter controls, saying it was a ‘shame’ some Lib Dems did not support free schools. “….they have these freedoms…that’s what helping them outperform maintained schools,” she said, “You shouldn’t kill off the goose that’s laid the golden egg.”

Even fellow Lib Dems don’t seem to share Mr. Clegg’s views. During a recent debate on free schools, Schools Minister David Laws said: “There are plenty of teachers who may not have formal qualifications but who still do a superb job.”

Whose side are you on in this political spat over free schools and academies?

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