The Times is reporting that Andy Burnham has put the free school network ‘on notice’ as he promised to give local authorities the power to decide which pupils attend.
In what the paper describes as “a move designed to reassure Labour traditionalists”, it suggests that Mr Burnham has proposed a change in admissions that it believes will eventually turn free schools back into comprehensives by removes a key element of their independence.
Andy Burnham’s campaign team is quoted:
“What one school does on admissions affects all schools and pupils in a local community. It is wrong that there is no accountability for free schools and academies to that community… This is not about Westminster imposing an approach, it is about giving local communities the power to decide on vital issues like admissions policies for local schools…”
In Mr Burnham’s manifesto, the specific phrase used is:
“I will restore a local role in overseeing schools, rejecting the growing market of free schools and academies.”
I’m not sure it is actually clear what Andy Burnham is proposing in terms of free schools and academies, but it seems to be a more aggressive line against the current status quo than was adopted by Labour of the recent election.
Of course, if and when he ever becomes Prime Minister there will be an awful lot of schools outside of local authority control – will it be either feasible or sensible to try and change the whole system again at that stage?
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