Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan
, spoke out today, at the Anti-Academies Alliance conference, against the unfairness of the academies and free schools programme. Her complaints will be familiar to followers of this website: the academies/free school policy will lead to increased social segregation, mean resources are taken away from other schools, and lead to the privatisation of the school system. She admitted that she differed from her colleague, Andy Burnham, the Shadow Education secretary, in her views.
It's clear that the Labour front bench are very reluctant to criticise the academies programme. After all, it was the Labour Party, led by Andrew Adonis, that set it up. Throughout the conference, delegates complained that the Labour Party didn't seem to have a view about academies. Even leading "leftish" figures in the party such as Estelle Morris are "relaxed" about the policy.
However, it's clear that the opposition will have to make a stand at some point because the academies programme is going to cause chaos. As Mary Bousted, the leader of the ATL
union, pointed out at the conference when academies run into trouble, things are going to get very awkward for the government. When things went badly wrong at the Richard Rose Academy in Cumbria a few years ago central government struggled to sort out the mess: things are still awkward even now. Bousted pointed out that it's going to be very hard to sort out problems if/when a serious accident happens at these academies, or discipline breaks down, or rolls fall etc. Of course, LAs are best placed to deal with these sorts of local issues, but central government is not. Yet it's Whitehall that's effectively in charge of these schools, which are, apart from a funding agreement with central government, entirely independent and divorced from local control.
Has the Labour Party got a view on any of this? What are their views on academies? Could someone important in the party speak up please?
I vote for Lisa Nandy to take over soon: she's young and energetic, a great communicator and she really believes in comprehensive education. I think younger voters will really connect with her.