Clegg eyes schools shake-up

A new generation of schools freed from the restrictions of central government oversight should be created, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg believes.

In his first major speech to Britain’s third party since replacing Sir Menzies Campbell as leader Mr Clegg concentrated on education to outline ways he believes liberalism can re-seize the UK’s political agenda.

His “free schools” would be under local strategic oversight but run by sponsors like parents, charities and suitable voluntary and private organisations “with no ministerial involvement” in assessments of their progress.

“This new generation of schools. will have the funding to help those children who need the most support; the obligation to be accessible to all; and the freedom from unnecessary political and bureaucratic interference to innovate in the best interests of their pupils,” he said.

Mr Clegg called for the two lowest GCSE grades to be abolished as a means of raising too-low educational standards, saying it is “time to call a fail, a fail”.

And he attacked Labour and the Conservatives for their commitment to centralised government, blaming “made in Whitehall” policies for poor turnout in local elections.

“This is just daft. You can’t run thousands of schools from an office in Whitehall, and you can’t innovate effectively on a national scale. More powers must be devolved from central government, and with them more power to raise and spend money,” he added.

Laying out his plans to implement such changes, the 41-year-old backed “radically shrinking the size of all our public service departments” to refocus them on broad objectives rather specific targets.

He said the Lib Dems, meeting at a conference to discuss their party manifesto, should create a charter of freedoms and responsibilities for local government which would “spell the end to a centralised state”.