Labour pledges end to ‘needless micro-management of schools’

Shadow education secretary says she'll 'trust' leaders to know when their schools need help

Shadow education secretary says she'll 'trust' leaders to know when their schools need help

A Labour government will “end the needless micro-management” of schools from Westminster, and “celebrate the achievements” of both academies and maintained schools, Bridget Phillipson has said.

Attacking the recent attempt by ministers to hand themselves unprecedented powers over schools, the shadow education secretary pledged to “trust” leaders to know when their schools need help, while also maintaining “high standards”.

The government recently abandoned its controversial schools bill following widespread criticism from its own benches and attempts by the opposition to bring requirements for academies in line with those for maintained schools.

Labour has said it will not support forced academisation, but has also pledged to leave well-performing academy trusts alone. It means the current hybrid will be here to stay if Sir Keir Starmer wins the next election.

Speaking at the Schools North East academies conference in Newcastle this afternoon, Phillipson reiterated that her party is “not interested in wholesale structural reform”.

But she wants to “smooth the differences” between the academies and maintained school sectors.

She acknowledged the “mix and match landscape of maintained and academy schools that a future Labour government would inherit”, but insisted the distinction between the two types of school “mostly means nothing to parents”.

“They want a good local school where their children are happy and get the first-class education they all deserve. That will be my focus from government, and I know all types of school can deliver that.”

‘I’m not interested in wholesale structural reform’

However, she warned that the current school system was “fragmented, opaque, and over-complex”.

“Instead of one system, we are running several. I’m not interested in wholesale structural reform.  But I do want to smooth the differences.”

She reiterated Labour’s plans to give councils more powers over academy admissions, to make all schools follow the national curriculum and to inspect multi-academy trusts.

Her party “will not be imposing top down structures, but we will demand collaboration and cooperation in the best interests of our children”.

“I will celebrate the achievements of academies, of you and your schools across our region. And I will celebrate the achievements of maintained schools where they are delivering for our children.”

Phillipson added that she would “trust” leaders and schools to “be the experts in how children learn and the approach that’s right in your classroom”.

Labour will ‘trust you to know when you need help’

She took aim at the abandoned schools bill, which she said showed “just how little trust the Conservatives have in our schools and in our school staff”.

“The secretary of state does not need the power to dictate the length of your school day, the exams children are entered for, what you teach and how you teach it, which staff schools employ and on what terms.”

Labour’s plan for a universal national curriculum “doesn’t mean I want to tell you what books to teach nor how to teach them”, Phillipson said.

“It will not mean limiting your ability to reflect your community or geography within your curriculum. But it will mean that every parent and family knows that their child is entitled to the same core framework underpinning their learning.”

Labour will also “trust you to know when you need help too”, and will “end the needless micro-management from Westminster”. But Phillipson added that “does not mean we will not have high standards”.

She said the current system too often left leaders and teachers feeling “exposed and unsupported”, and repeated her warning that accountability and inspection “has become too high stakes, where the risks of a ‘bad’ inspection outweigh the rewards of a good one”.

Phillipson said her party would also be “looking at how to bring MATs into the inspection system”, something Labour has committed-to several times.

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