Now the Lib-Dems have got their way over sports funding, can we have more of their education policies please?

5 December 2010
The Local Schools Network
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It’s brilliant news to read today that the government is now considering saving specialist sports teaching in our state schools. The general outcry against the axeing of sports’ provision in schools should make the Coalition think again about their policies. It appears that Cameron is now intervening to save the funding, essentially over-ruling Michael Gove, the Education Secretary — a huge embarrassment for him and an indication that the PM, once Gove’s biggest fan, considers him to be quite out of touch with what people want. It’s the latest in a long-line of mistakes made by Gove: the blunders over the cuts to Building Schools for the Future programme, the absurdly misplaced optimism about the uptake for free schools and new academy status, the flip-flopping over giving all schools independent status; the chaotic ideas about teacher training; the amazing contradictions in the White Paper about school exclusions; his bizarre insistence that every child should read obscure 18th century poets; and the falsity of his cri-de-coeur that all maintained schools are “broken” and we need to call in the army!

Reports in The Observer suggest that Clegg spoke out against the sports’ cuts at a cabinet meeting and was listened to. Meanwhile Ed Miliband should be given his due in challenging Cameron over this at Prime Minister’s Questions; his intervention has proved important too.

The fact that Clegg wrote the introduction to the Education White Paper and has clearly diluted the extremities of the free schools and academies reform show that the government is being a little more “incremental” than it initially intended to be. The U-turn over sports’ funding indicates that the government realises that it needs to produce education policies that have broad support with the public.

Does this mean that the Lib-Dems will become major players in the education reforms to come? I truly hope so.

The Lib-Dems had an excellent education manifesto; their ideas were much more in touch with what the British people want than the Tory ones . Before the election, David Laws (remember him!) was their shadow Education Secretary and had got together some very sensible ideas. Firstly, they wanted to sort out the mess of the admissions system by bringing Academies and faith schools back within LA control and not allowing these schools to covertly select pupils. Secondly, they had serious plans to make education policy independent from political control so that we wouldn’t have the constant meddling and pointless changes that we have at the moment.

Perhaps now Gove has proved himself to be very out of touch with what the British public want, the Lib-Dems will start to throw their weight around a bit more.

The Lib-Dems have been very badly wounded by the tuition fees U-turn, but if they can curb the excesses of Gove and implement some sensible education policies that improve the prospects of our school children, then maybe they’ll recover some of the political capital they’ve lost in the coming years.

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