Labour unveiled its proposals for the future of education this week with plans for even greater autonomy for schools.
Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary (pictured), said he would give all schools the freedoms enjoyed by academies if his party wins at the polls in 2015.
And while free schools would not be scrapped, no more would be opened by a future Labour government, he said.
He told an audience at the RSA in London that he wanted an end to a “fragmented, divisive school system”.
Mr Twigg said: “We know that giving schools more freedom over how they teach and how they run and organise their schools can help to raise standards.
“So why should we deny those freedoms to thousands of schools? All schools should have them, not just academies and free schools. A school should not have to change its structure just to gain freedoms.”
However, greater freedoms for maintained schools are unlikely to extend to them determining their own pay and conditions. Mr Twigg said he supported a national pay framework, and emphasised that only staff with a teaching qualification should be allowed to teach.
Under the proposals, local authorities would be given powers to intervene in academies and free schools if there were concerns over standards.
Mr Twigg also announced a review into how academies and other schools should be working with local authorities.
The Department for Education said Mr Twigg’s policies were “confused”. But teachers’ leaders backed the announcements.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The last thing schools need is yet more turmoil caused by rushed reforms. However there is a need to reduce variability among schools so it is therefore right that any freedoms granted to academies and free schools should be extended to all state schools.”
Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT, said: “If the changes Stephen Twigg has outlined are to be carried forward then Labour must not forget the centrality of the school workforce in maintaining and raising standards.
“Labour will therefore need a clear strategy to address the deep crisis in morale in the teaching profession which is driving good teachers out of teaching and deterring new ones from entering the profession.”
Meanwhile, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, welcomed the intention to bolster local accountability for schools. She added: “Running thousands of schools from Whitehall is not in the best interest of schools, pupils, parents and local communities. The lack of accountability in academies and free schools must be over-turned, so we welcome the chance to reinstate local authorities’ responsibilities for all schools in their area.”