Coffee House

Tories hit back at Clegg call for academy changes

10 June 2014

5:23 PM

10 June 2014

5:23 PM

The way the Lib Dems have responded to the Trojan Horse revelations must be causing the Conservatives to thank their lucky stars they took Tony Blair’s advice on shaking up the public sector and prioritised school reforms at the start of the Coalition, rather than leaving the reforms until later. Nick Clegg’s comments about academy oversight and curriculum requirements this morning did rather suggest that if they’d had their time again, his party would only have backed legislation with a rather different character.

Naturally, the Conservatives in the Education department aren’t particularly impressed that this morning the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that ‘you need to get the balance right’ on autonomy for academies and that there was a need for a ‘core body of knowledge’ to be taught in all schools. A DfE source is keen to point out that the Lib Dems were, after all, very much in favour of all those early education reforms that the coalition introduced.

‘All academies and free schools are required to teach a broad and balanced curriculum: it’s written in their funding agreements. If they don’t do that, they are in breach of their contract and we can terminate their funding.

‘But fundamentally we believe in giving schools as much freedom as possible through the academies programme. It’s something that we’ve only been able to implement thanks to the support of the Liberal Democrats.

‘Lib Dem votes meant we could get the Academies Act through Parliament in 2010. That law has led to an enormous increase in the number of academies from 203 when we came in to 4,000 now. It’s obviously a shame if the Lib Dems are now having regrets.’

All of this doesn’t just serve to underline the wisdom of passing those reforms early, but also the extreme difficulty that both sides would encounter in trying to work together in another post-2015 coalition.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • ButcombeMan

    A good piece of advice Isabel.

    Stop paying any attention to Clegg.

    The public have.

  • HookesLaw

    I do not know who is advising the libdems, but they are seeking to shore up an increasingly shrinking demographic. The loony toons who are going to believe this rubbish have already gone over to labour.

    • Makroon

      Clegg is just clinging on by bashing the Conservatives for everything – even the many things that the general public support.
      He will be gone after the election, so Ms Hardman doesn’t need to worry about a new Con-LibDem coalition, it just won’t happen. And Balls would insist that Clegg goes before the next chapter of the LibLab puppet show.

  • HD2

    Privatise ALL State education, given parents educational vouchers they can ‘spend’ at any school in the land.

    Give every Head freedom to employ whoever they want, at whatever wages they want.

    To set whatever entrance tests and exams they want – and to award whatever scholarships they want too.

    They can teach what they want, when they want, how they want, by whom they want and at whatever additional fees they want to charge – that’s their choice.

    Given them the freedom to borrow to expand and improve – subject to the Heads and governors being financially liable for disaster, just as they can freely make a profit from success.

    Allow them to make a profit, to seek outside sponsorship and to ask for additional money from the taxpayer for teaching problem children – or outstandingly gifted ones.

    It’s the parents’ choice where to send their children (the complete reversal of the current position, therefore): all school fees to be fully tax-deductible.

    It’s the State’s duty to ensure that results are published, all advertising is accurate (ie their prospectus is honest), and that the school is inspected regularly (without warning, obviously!) and that these reports are published and are made freely available to all.

    And that is the end of the involvement of HMG.

    Effectively, that returns UK education to the pre-1944 Act position, when UK education was amongst the best available, anywhere.

    It would also allow for the abolition of Child Benefit and the raising of the Personal Allowance to min wage levels (£13k pa) as LEAs were wound up.

    Edit: The only compulsory subject I would insist upon is that Darwinism has always beaten Marxism/socialism over the last 4.5 billion years, so seek to work within Darwinian principles: diversity + competition = evolution and success.

  • DaveTheRave

    Complete freedom? What, to mess it up? This is all window dressing. And can you believe anything said, considering what happened with tuition fees?
    Academies were brought in by New Labour, carried on by the Tories and LibDems. In my opinion and from my experience they are just plain wrong. You can’t mix the market place with proper schooling any more than you can do it with the NHS (sorry, Tory diehards). Let professionals run them – not business men
    Academies encourage the wrong type of person to run them. Too many of them have gone bust and dished out new contracts to teachers who don’t know whether they are coming or going. Madness.
    We need more grammar schools, more scholarships (yes, old-fashioned Tory!), more vocational schools, more apprenticeships begun in schools.
    Oops! – is this common sense?

    • HookesLaw

      And you think voters are going to give the Tories a mandate to put their children through a life changing test at 11?
      What would that test determine? The schools which might compliment the grammars are not there, the old tripartite system was designed for a different era and economy and society.
      You cannot spout the return to grammars and not suggest what compliments them and what their purpose is.

  • Last Man Standing

    The Lib Dems have no electoral mandate anymore and will soon be wiped out. Why should we, or even Tory ministers, take any account of their complaints.

    • CharlietheChump

      I know I have commented many times on the need for Specie contributors to speak of this deranged little group as though they matter. Soon to be sorted though.