News story

Fair and free - every child must be able to do better

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New measures to ensure that access to high quality education is fair for all were announced today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Speaking at Southfields Community College in south-west London, the Deputy PM set out how all schools should have regard for all the pupils in their care. This includes ensuring that excluded pupils are found suitable alternative education or training, and that free schools have stronger admissions policies.

In his speech, Mr Clegg also 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 proposals he has announced today include:                                                                                 

  • No school in the state sector, including free schools and academies, should ever be run for profit.
  • From September 2013, 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.

He 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 Clegg said:                                                                           

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.

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 and not just the privileged few. 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.

So 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.