Like his colleagues in the Labour party, Stephen Twigg used his speech this afternoon to focus on the cost of living. He pledged that Labour would force schools to open earlier and close later to provide ‘wrap-around’ childcare:
‘Spiralling childcare costs are adding huge pressures to family budgets. Last year, nursery costs rose six times faster than wages, making work unaffordable for many parents…that is why I am announcing that the next Labour government will legislate to deliver a Primary Childcare Guarantee. Before and after school childcare for all primary pupils.
‘For parents of primary school children the certainty that they can access childcare from 8am-6pm through their school.’
But focusing on the cost of living wasn’t important enough to stop Twigg from having a pop at his favourite pantomime villain, Michael Gove and his education policy. He said:
‘Michael Gove says let unqualified teachers into our classrooms. Not on my watch.’
This was obviously also a sop to the teaching union reps in the audience: they hate the unqualified teachers policy, not on the grounds that it won’t work, but because it undermines their own members. And in the same vein, Twigg attacked Gove’s free schools policy:
‘From a Government wasting millions creating new schools where they are not needed during a national shortage in primary places.’
So what have we learned from this speech? It’s hardly a surprise that Stephen Twigg doesn’t like unqualified teachers or free schools. But what he clearly does like is telling schools and parents what to do – prescribing provision for childcare from the centre, rather than trying to set up a market. Similarly, he doesn’t like free schools ‘where they are not needed’ because they give low income parents the same choice that affluent families have between independent schools.
As for his focus on the cost of living, Twigg and colleagues claim that this ‘wrap-around’ childcare policy won’t cost the government any more money. But will this mean that schools pay their teachers less to pay for a breakfast club? Or charge parents so much that the cost of living isn’t really eased at all?Tags: Cost of living, Labour conference 2013, Michael Gove, Stephen Twigg, UK politics