Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Schools Minister offers apology, tea and academy status to Hackney school

Ed Balls, Hackney resident, former schools minister and current contender for the Labour leadership took a couple of swipes at the schools minister, Michael Gove, during the second reading of the Academies Bill (from Theyworkforyou.com)

Balls started off badly, laying himself open to attack after saying: "The idea that the right hon. Gentleman (Gove) is the heir to Tony Blair is complete and utter tosh."

To which Gove replied: "I would never claim to be the heir to Blair; I know that the right hon. Gentleman yearns to fill that role. I was one of the many thousands watching the Labour leadership hustings on "Newsnight", when he said that Tony Blair was the finest Prime Minister the Labour party ever had. I dropped my cocoa in excitement at the right hon. Gentleman's conversion to the cause of Blairism. It is somewhat at variance with what is recorded in Alastair Campbell's diaries, Peter Mandelson's memoirs and various other documents that have thudded on to my desk over the past few weeks, but I am very happy to see him join the conventicle."

But Balls got his own back later with the help of Woodberry Down Primary school:

Balls: "When the head teacher of Woodberry Down community primary school in Hackney, an outstanding school in a federation with two other primary schools, approached the Department for Education to ask whether the school might access academy freedoms, the Department said it could do so only if it broke up the federation, because outstanding schools would be able to federate only with other outstanding schools rather than underperforming schools. On what basis will such collaboration help less good schools to become better? Is that not just excellence supporting excellence, or has the right hon. Gentleman had to change that policy?

Gove: "No, it is my belief that all outstanding schools should be there to support other schools. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for drawing that issue to my attention. Actually, we have made it clear that groups of schools in which one school is outstanding and the others are not can apply. Woodberry Down may well be a school that we would like to see enjoy academy status and hope will work with other schools, but it may not be among the very first schools to enjoy academy status. If he would like Woodberry Down's application accelerated so that it can become an academy in September, I hope he will join me in the Lobby this evening."

Balls: "I have found in the past few weeks that the right hon. Gentleman is never, ever able to answer a straight question in the House. I will try again. An outstanding school was told that it could federate only with other outstanding schools if it wanted academy status. Is that his policy, yes or no?"

Gove: "It is certainly not our policy, and I am sorry that the headmaster of Woodberry Down has been told that. I shall write to him later or call him, or perhaps he, I and the right hon. Gentleman can have a cup of tea together, to ensure that that excellent school can become an academy by September if it wishes."

Meg Hillier also spoke during the debate but Diane Abbott didn't - although she was there and did vote. Schools in Diane's constituency were mentioned several times (Mossbourne).

Some explanation of the Academies bill: Tribune, Telegraph

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