Prime Minister praises parents at free school
THE Prime Minister has joined the debate over Bristol's new free school, hitting out at the "left-wing establishment" who opposed it.
Giving his keynote conference address in Birmingham, David Cameron said opponents of the education shake-up had "forgotten what it's like to be ambitious".
After his speech, the Education Secretary joined the attack, saying Bristol's children had been "let down for years" by the city's schools.
Free schools are government funded but independent of local authority control, set up by parents' groups and other organisations.
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Bristol's one, in Burghill Road, opened a year ago after a campaign by parents. Critics said it was aimed predominantly at affluent areas, and the head teacher of nearby Henbury School took legal action, claiming it would suck privileged children out of her school.
Mr Cameron said: "When inspirational teachers and parents – in Hammersmith, in Norwich, in Bristol and in Wigan – wanted to open free schools, the left-wing establishment said no.
"When we proposed more pay for good teachers, getting rid of bad teachers, longer school days to help children learn, flexible school hours to help parents work, more stretching exams for those who are really able, less nonsense about health and safety, the left-wing establishment have said just one thing – no."
The Prime Minister called for schools where "discipline is strict, expectations are high and no excuses are accepted for failure", saying "smart uniforms and teachers in suits" were what was needed to transform standards.
Later, Education Secretary Michael Gove spoke to the Post, saying the free school was "a fantastic addition to state education in Bristol".
He said: "For years, Bristol's schools under performed and Bristol's children were being let down. Now, thanks to both academies and free schools, the quality is getting better."
The Prime Minister's speech yesterday closed the Tories' annual conference in Birmingham. He attempted to counter criticism of the "same old Tories" on controversial issues such as public spending cuts and curbs on welfare by setting out why he believed the government's measures were "compassionate".
He said: "It's not enough to know our ideas are right – we've got to explain why they are compassionate too. Because we know what we're up against. We say we've got to get the private sector bigger and the public sector smaller… our opponents call it 'Tory cuts, slashing the state'.
"No. It's the best way to create the sustainable jobs people need."
He sent a stern message on the economy, telling Britain it must knuckle down and "do or decline".
Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who represents Kingswood, said: "It was the strongest conference speech I've seen."