Friday, 7 October 2011
Twigg must regain Labour's education inititiative
It is good news that Stephen Twigg, an unashamed fan of academies, has been appointed by Ed Miliband as his new shadow education secretary. Andy Burnham never really regained the initiative having started badly, although his focus on vocational education was one of a number of ways he recognised the coalition's weaknesses. But by allowing academies to be stolen by the Tories as their great initiative, he left his successor with a lot of ground to make up. Twigg must now be bold and ensure that Labour education policy has real credibility with parents, heads and teachers. He needs to be ready to outflank education secretary Michael Gove in areas such as rewards for schools that successfully overcome poverty - with a pupil premium that has real teeth - and to give a real sense of mission to academies and free schools. Whilst not disputing the need for rigorous academic qualifications, he should champion a technical baccalaureate as an alternative to the EBacc for some, but equally make clear where the Tories are simply following Labour successes on issues like floor targets and academies. Above all, he must regain the mantle of standards and diversity for Labour, making clear that a future Labour government would be on the side of today's parents and pupils, and not those seeking to turn the Labour policy clock back twenty years. It's good also to see Liz Kendall and Rachel Reeves getting much deserved promotions.