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Nick Clegg promises head teacher 'champions league'

media captionNick Clegg: "We are looking for experienced head teachers ready for a new challenge"

Nick Clegg has promised to set up a "champions league" of head teachers to be brought in to sort out failing schools in England.

In a speech, the deputy prime minister said experienced staff could join a "pool of top talent" which would be "ready to move" at short notice.

He also said free schools and academies must only employ professionally qualified teachers.

Labour said voters could not trust what Mr Clegg said on this subject.

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4 Today's programme that unqualified teachers currently working in schools would not be sacked under his proposals, but would instead be given the opportunity to "seek qualifications while you are teaching".

He said the rules would not apply to private schools, which also employ teachers without professional qualifications, because "you pay your fees and you take your choice", but children using taxpayer-funded schools had a right to expect basic standards.

Before the coalition relaxed the rules, state-funded schools could only employ teachers on a permanent basis if they had completed teacher training, regardless of their other qualifications or experience.

The number of unqualified teachers in free schools and academies has gone up from 2,200 in 2010 to 5,300 last year, according to Education Department figures, although the overall number of unqualified teachers in the state sector as a whole has fallen.


In his speech, Mr Clegg announced that, from September next year, the government would create a "programme to get outstanding leaders into the schools that need them the most".

The team would be made up of head teachers and deputy heads, with recruitment beginning soon, he said.

Parts of the Liberal Democrat leader's speech had been heavily trailed in the media for several days, particularly his expression of differences with the Conservatives over free schools, which are state-funded but autonomous.

He acknowledged "differences of opinion, some strongly held", stating that his party wants all schools to follow the national curriculum, guarantee food standards and employ only qualified teachers.

He said this "view has sparked quite a bit of excitement this week - and criticism", but added that he wants parents to make their educational choices "safe in the knowledge that there are certain safeguards".

Downing Street has taken issue with the Lib Dem position on free schools, saying that, as recently as last week, Lib Dem schools minister David Laws had said he was "100% behind" the policy.

But Mr Clegg said: "I am totally unapologetic that the Liberal Democrats have our own ideas."

Labour's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "Nick Clegg will be judged on what he does, not what he says.

"Whatever he says about free schools today, the truth is this divisive policy is his - enacted by his Tory-led government because of his help and support."

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