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Labour-run Sandwell Council is proposing to make a redundant school building available to a new free school.

The Oldbury College of Sport is moving out of its site in Moat Road and so the council is proposing to sell the building to the Department of Education so that it can be used for Griffin Schools Trust to start a free school.

Good for them. But it is unsatisfactory that a free school being set up should be dependent on the cooperation of the local council in making a site available. That is why planning rules need to change to make converting buildings into schools easier.

But when it comes to parental choice in Newcastle, the Labour Party are still behaving like the political wing of the National Union of Teachers.

There was the following exchange at Education Questions in Parliament yesterday:

Chi Onwurah: A free school is being proposed in Newcastle right next to an academy that was built only three years ago. Additionally, primary and secondary schools across the constituency are being forced to convert to academy status against the wishes of parents. Now that the city council finds that it faces a legal bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds for these conversions, will the Secretary of State assure me that the council tax payers of Newcastle will not have to pay for the chaos he is imposing on our educational system?

 Michael Gove: The council tax payers of Newcastle have already paid in the past for the failure of that local authority to raise standards in schools to a level seen in other local authorities, including Gateshead, for example. It is critical that we raise standards in Newcastle and we will do so by welcoming new educational providers, including those who propose free schools. We will certainly do so by tackling underperformance at primary level. For far too long, the last Government tolerated primary schools that were generating children who left at the age of 11 incapable of reading, writing and adding up properly. I have no tolerance for that sort of nonsense, which is why we are acting now.

I don't know what Onwurah is talking about when he says schools are "forced" to become academies. But the free school I think he objects to is one from NCG which sounds excellent. Others are also proposed for his city. I hope that his constituents who take advantage of this choice to give their children a better start in life will remembering how Onwurah tried to thwart them, when they cast their votes at the next election.

4 comments for: Labour back free schools in Sandwell but oppose them in Newcastle