Labour says it will keep Gove school reforms

media captionUnqualified teachers "should not be in the classroom", says Tristram Hunt when asked if his party would fire them

Labour has said it would not repeal any of the major school reforms introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove if it wins the next general election.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said he did not want to "waste political energy" by "tinkering" with changes made to the curriculum and academy schools in England since 2010.

Many of Mr Gove's initiatives "built on" Labour ideas, he told the BBC.

But allowing unqualified teachers into the classroom must end, he said.

Mr Hunt, who took over the education brief last year, has already said a future Labour government would not force any free schools set up since 2010 to close although it would pursue a different model of "parent-led academies".


In an interview on the BBC's Sunday Politics, Mr Hunt was asked which, if any, of the changes championed by Mr Gove - some of which were opposed by Labour at the time - that he would reverse if he inherited his job.

He said: "We are not interested in throwing up change for the sake of it.

"Teachers have been through very aggressive changes over the last few years so when it comes to some of the curriculum reforms we have seen, we are not interested in changing those for the sake of it."

He added: "I don't think you want to waste political energy by undoing reforms that, in certain situations, build rather successfully on Labour policy."

Labour, he said, had introduced the sponsored academies programme to give state schools more financial freedom and the Teach First charity initiative to get more graduates into state schools - both initiatives expanded by the government.

The last government, he added, had also transformed the opportunities for the poorest children in the capital through the London Challenge system of school co-operation - an approach he said should be rolled out nationally.


One of the areas where Labour would make changes, he said, was in teacher training - with teachers being required to renew their qualifications every few years under a process of "relicensing".

Many people would be "shocked" by the fact that free schools can hire people who do not have formal teacher qualifications.

"We have structural changes in the names of schools but all the international evidence is clear - it is the quality of leadership of heads and the quality of teaching in classrooms which transforms the opportunities of young people.

"Instead of tinkering around with the names of schools, we should focus on teacher quality.

"This government approves of having unqualified teachers in the classroom - we want to have fully qualified, passionate, motivated teachers in our classrooms."

Mr Hunt has rejected suggestions that his policy is to continue with free schools but under a different name, saying he would move away from the "destructive, market-driven approach" pursued by Mr Gove.


More than 170 free schools, set up by parents and other groups and operating outside local authority control, have opened since 2011.

While the new schools have been welcomed by many parents in those areas, critics have raised questions about standards after two schools found to be providing inadequate education were ordered to close.

Mr Hunt said there had been a "lot of waste" in the programme and Labour would have to decide what future priorities should be in the straitened financial climate it would inherit.

Under Labour, he said, free schools would only be allowed to open in areas where there was a shortage of school places while new institutions would be expected to work together in partnership with existing ones to "share excellence".

"We need 250,000 new schools places, 150,000 of those in London. We have to focus on building new schools where we have to put them."

A Labour government, he added, would also focus more resources on increasing the availability and quality of technical and vocational education, so those not going to university were not left behind.

A taskforce set up by Labour is set to recommend significant changes to the 14-19 education system on Monday, including making some funding conditional on pupils staying in school after 16, ensuring all pupils continue to study Maths and English until 18 and improving careers advice in schools with a high dropout rate.

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