Ed Miliband received almost universal praise for his speech at the Labour Party Conference last week, but I think he committed a tactical error. By making such a song and dance about having been to a comprehensive – unlike that wicked toff David Cameron – he stumbled into enemy territory. I’m talking about education policy.
This used to be one of Labour’s strengths. Don’t forget, Tony Blair said that improving Britain’s schools was his single biggest priority and he initiated the academy programme to do precisely that, freeing secondary schools from the dead hand of local authority control.
Blair spent a huge amount of political capital on this programme ¬– it was bitterly opposed by the trade unions and many of his own MPs – and by the end of New Labour’s 13 years in office 203 academies had been established.
Academies are, by any measure, a resounding success. Take Harris, for instance, an academy chain in South London. The average rate of improvement in GCSE results in all Harris academies since opening is 33 per cent. At Harris’s longest established academy in Crystal Palace, 99.4 per cent of pupils got five good GCSEs this year, including Maths and English. That’s a near perfect result.
You’d expect Ed Miliband to be shouting about this from the rooftops – look what the last government did to transform the lives of some of the poorest children in our community! But instead he’s remained eerily silent. Why? (To read more, click here.)