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East Lancashire's free school backers answer critics
MPs and schools have responded to Nick Clegg’s calls for tighter controls on free schools.
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg said only qualified teachers should be employed and must teach the national curriculum.
As plans for free schools move forward in East Lancashire, Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he agreed with the ethos of community-run schools.
Burnley High School, the first free school in his constituency, is due to open next year and the Lib Dem said: “Free schools create choice and if that’s what parents want, then they are a great idea.
“It’s terrible that around 400 young people leave schools in Burnley to attend ones in other towns because parents don’t like the way they are run.”
Free schools are all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to what local people say they want and need. Since September 2011, more than 170 have opened in England.
Burnley High School’s chief executive officer Dr Russell Rook said the community plays an integral part in developing the new school.
He said: “I am bored of the politics over free schools. The most important issue is providing good and outstanding learning. The free schools do teach within the national curriculum and the teachers are qualified. Burnley High will have the best resources and influences which include members of the community and highly qualified professionals.”
Next year, Blackburn will see private school QEGS will turn free.
Paul Oliver, director of development and admissions, said: “It is difficult for free schools that have not got much experience although we are confident for a successful school as QEGS has been established for many years.”
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said only qualified teachers should be employed to run the schools.
He said: “If somebody holds themselves out to be a doctor or a nurse, the same should apply if you are a teacher. The issue is making sure there are high standards of teaching. Free school Tauheedul shows that it is possible.”
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