Stephen twigg

Labour lurched towards honesty in its reshuffle

Labour types are pretty grumpy that yesterday’s far-reaching reshuffle of their ranks is being billed as another ‘lurch to the left’. The reality is a little more complex: the party hasn’t lurched to the left so much as lurched towards being honest about what it believes. This was what Ed Miliband did in Brighton two weeks ago. He didn’t suddenly discover, with a jolt, that he was a socialist: he just started being more honest about that. Liam Byrne, Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy were moved not because they were hopeless performers, but because they were never really given a chance to perform. What was Labour’s policy on free schools?

Stephen Twigg pitches himself against Gove on cost of living

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

Super-sized primary schools will damage education standards

This morning, as parents were getting their children ready for their first day at school, the Education Secretary was taking to the airwaves. To many parents, who will be sending their children into overcrowded classrooms, they will be astonished by the complacency shown by Michael Gove. David Cameron’s Government has created a crisis in primary school places, of its own making; with a forecast shortfall of places of 240,000 by 2015. Michael Gove has no business grandstanding about his record. He and David Cameron cut schools capital spending by 60 per cent on taking office – twice as much as the cuts to other departments’ capital budgets. In fact, the cut to

How can Labour respond to the rapid rise and popularity of free schools?

As the new school year begins, the Department for Education has announced 93 new free schools are opening — more than double opened last September — creating 46,000 new places. With a total of 174 free schools now open, the evidence suggests Michael Gove’s free school programme is taking off. This is how many have opened since the election: But though free schools are flourishing, there’s still a squeeze underway.  The Local Government Association today warns that half of the school districts in England will run out of places within two years due to ‘unnecessary restrictions’ on councils: ‘Its analysis of local authority data suggests about 1,000 of the 2,277

No need to fret Stephen Twigg, Gove is already tackling multiple exam entries

At last, something Michael Gove and Stephen Twigg agree on. Both the Education Secretary and his opposite number agree that efforts need to be made to tackle pupils entering the same exams multiple times, sometimes even through multiple exam boards. There are often legitimate reasons but the practice has become more c used to boost grades. In light of today’s GCSEs results, the shadow Education Secretary has urged Gove to target schools that are gaming the system; to ensure ‘the system is robust, so students only need to take the exam once.’ Good idea, except the Education Secretary has already recognised the issue and taken steps to address it. In

Twigg fights reshuffle fears with Sharknado

Ed Miliband is rumoured to be on the verge of sacking shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg, who is simply no match for Michael Gove’s flair and intellect. I hear that Vernon Coaker, who was Children, Schools and Families Minister under Brown and Balls, is in line for promotion. Coaker is a former teacher and seasoned political pugilist, so he would certainly brighten things up. But the damp Twigg has not given up, not yet. As is his wont, he has penned a letter to the Times Education Supplement. And, as ever, it is not a success. Among the usual bleats about Gove being a rabble rousing ‘ideologue’, I noticed this line: ‘Like a shark in

The King’s School merger will go ahead unchallenged — Labour should be celebrating

The battle for The King’s School is over, and Labour has lost. As reported in today’s Newcastle Chronicle, North Tyneside Council met yesterday and voted against pursuing a judicial review of the new Kings Priory Academy in Tynemouth. After threatening to halt the merger of the independent King’s School and state Priory Primary School since May, the council has accepted that it is on the wrong side of parents and the local community. The council is not celebrating the arrival of a new state school. The Labour mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn, said of the decision: ‘I have been in education for years and I can’t believe how this

What Stephen Twigg doesn’t understand about Sweden’s for-profit schools

As a Swede, I’m always intrigued to hear the British Labour Party say how Sweden’s free school system has been a disaster. Profit-making schools, says Stephen Twigg, are backfiring. But I’d like to pose a question. If Mr Twigg thinks that profitmaking state schools in my homeland are such a disaster – and one with “with dire consequences for parents and children” – then why does he think that the Swedes haven’t banned them? Has he, from his vantage point of Westminster, spotted a flaw that the Swedes have missed? Or could it be that he has grasped the wrong end of the stick? Mr Twigg recently wrote a piece

Parents vs. the system: which side is Labour on?

Should Labour support private schools joining the state sector? Yes, is probably your immediate response but in reality, Labour’s position is unfathomable. A case in point is the battle for The King’s School, which I’ve written about in this week’s Spectator. The King’s School is due to move into the state sector this September and merge with the local Priory Primary School to create the all-new King’s Priory Academy. North Tyneside, where both schools reside, is one of the poorest boroughs in the country. Opening up an excellent fee-paying school to parents who (like mine) can’t afford a £10,000 per-year education should be welcomed by all. But Labour, locally and

New curriculum offers political points to Tories

The funny thing about the new National Curriculum, published today, is that after all the fuss of the past few months, particularly over the history curriculum, it’s probably the last ever national plan from the government. As more and more schools convert to academy status, and more free schools pop up to compete with poorly-performing schools, there will be fewer and fewer who must conform to this: the rest have been given freedom to teach what they judge is best for their pupils. Michael Gove’s critics like to argue that he is a great centraliser, dictating the curriculum from Westminster while claiming to give schools freedom. But he only remains

Michael Gove’s fantasy Labour education team

Michael Gove and his colleagues have enjoyed poking Labour on education policy recently. His catty letter exchange with Stephen Twigg last week left Twigg with the victory for style with a supremely bitchy reply, while Gove won on substance (largely because he asked whether Labour’s education frontbench possessed any). Today he tried to assemble his own fantasy Labour education team as he took questions from MPs in the House of Commons chamber. Kate Hoey gave him a forthright prod about the delay in a school converting to an academy in her constituency. Gove didn’t really answer her question, instead saying: ‘I’m very grateful to the honourable lady. She’s a brilliant

Michael Gove kindly warns Stephen Twigg: people think you’re weak

What a lot of fun Michael Gove is having with Stephen Twigg’s latest policy pronouncements. The Education Secretary has written a fabulously long letter to his Labour shadow following up on Monday’s speech with 36 questions. He charmingly writes: ‘I am sure your speech was the result of a well-thought-through reflection on schools policy and all of the above questions were considered, and fully addressed, in preparation for your announcement and so you will be able to reply promptly and put to rest the idea, which more and more people are regrettably succumbing to, that Labour schools policy is a confusing, uncertain and incoherent assemblage of sops to the trades

School choice is not a scandal: Gove nails Twigg’s rum brand of localism

Michael Gove is naturally having some fun with Stephen Twigg’s schools speech. The Education Secretary has responded to Twigg’s plan for ‘parent academies’ by saying: ‘Labour’s policy on free schools is so tortured they should send in the UN to end the suffering. On the one hand Stephen Twigg says he will end the free school programme, but on the other he says he would set up ‘parent-led’ and ‘teacher-led academies’ – free schools under a different name. As Andrew Adonis has said this morning, “free schools are academies without a predecessor school”. When is a free school not a free school? When Stephen Twigg is trying to appease the

Isabel Hardman

Labour is after the Tories’ localism crown

Stephen Twigg is, as he probably expected, coming in for a bit of flak on his U-turn on free schools this morning. Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary has launched his own plan for ‘parent academies’, which Toby Young and James Kirkup have had some fun with here. But he is basically doing what Lord Adonis has long hoped the party would do, accepting that free schools are a variant of the last Labour government’s academies programme anyway. He just needed to find a new brand that wouldn’t send the teaching unions into orbit. But what’s interesting is that Twigg also devoted large sections of his speech to trying to steal the

How should Labour deal with the teaching unions?

While dealing with the teaching unions is a simple stand-off for Michael Gove, spare a thought for poor old Stephen Twigg, Labour’s shadow education secretary, who has to work out how on earth to deal with the NUT and NASUWT habit of opposing everything. There is a palpable sense of frustration on the Labour frontbenches about the way the two largest unions in particular behave. Twigg has made clear that he does not support strike action planned over a general raft of discontent over many different issues, and he has opposed the work-to-rule industrial action promoted by these unions too. On performance-related pay, the unions behave as though Voldemort is

Michael Gove gets his way with GCSEs…in the end

You just can’t keep Michael Gove down. After beating a very public retreat by u-turning on plans to replace GCSEs earlier this year, he’s announced today the all-new I-level qualifications. I-Levels will be graded 1-8 — with a current A* roughly equal to a 7 — and will take on much of his English Baccalaureate plans, including a greatly reduced significance on coursework and limited resits. The Baccalaureate was a rare defeat for the most fervent of cabinet ministers. Back then, he told the Daily Mail his exam reforms were a ‘step too far’, but it now appears Gove was still determined to get his own way. Following the GCSE

Schools can teach good character and the 3 Rs

Education debates are riddled with false choices, as Michael Barber notes in his recently published essay Oceans of Innovation. It’s academic or vocational; it’s best practice or innovation; it’s the three Rs or character development. These are the choices, we are told, that must be made. It plays well for those in pursuit of the politics of dividing lines but it is detrimental in policy terms. I want to see rigorous academic and vocational routes for young people in 14- 19 education. That is why Labour will bring forward a Technical Baccalaureate, with a strong focus on technical education and with Maths and English to 18 for all. If we

Isabel Hardman

Tim Loughton vs the Department for Education, round 2

The battle between Tim Loughton and the Education department rumbles on, with new foot soldiers joining the fray. The latest shot fired in the war comes from Labour’s Stephen Twigg, who has demanded an investigation into the quotes we ran on Coffee House last week from a senior DfE source which described the former minister as a ‘lazy incompetent narcissist obsessed only with self-promotion’. Twigg has written to the department’s Permanent Secretary Chris Wormald, saying the following: ‘You will be aware that both special advisers and civil servants are bound by a code of conduct, which precludes them from making personal attacks.’ In the letter, which you can read in

Gove kicks back at school bullies

A Labour conference delegate was heckled from the floor when she mentioned her school. Joanne, an immigrant who came to this country seeking political asylum and is about to read law, came face to face with the vested interests that blight education reform: the hall did not like the fact that she went to an Academy school. A delegate started shouting about comprehensive schooling, much to the horror of those around her. Michael Gove has come down on the girl’s side, he has just told me: ‘Heckling a schoolgirl because she goes to an academy is disgraceful. But it also shows the real face of Labour – a party where

Isabel Hardman

He’s behind you! Michael Gove is the pantomime villain who inspires Labour

There was plenty of panto on the conference floor this week in Manchester. Ed Miliband encouraged delegates to boo several villains in his speech, and one of them was Michael Gove. In fact, Michael Gove popped up as the villain on Tuesday and in the Labour leader’s question-and-answer session yesterday, too, and again when Stephen Twigg spoke just before the close of the conference today. This is odd: of all the reforms that the coalition government has introduced so far, Gove’s have been the least surprising to Labour members given he’s pushing ahead with what Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis started. There was one baffling moment when a delegate started