Andy Burnham's Twitter Challenge to Lib Dem MPs

Andy Burnham MP
Shadow Education Secretary
In the wake of last Thursday's elections Ed Miliband is calling on Lib Dem ministers to quit the cabinet. This sounds unlikely at this stage anyway but he is also calling on "disaffected Lib Dems should stand with him to oppose Tory policies". This sounds a bit more likely but this morning much of the attention has been on health with Nick Clegg threatening to veto the NHS reforms.

At the same time Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham is calling on Lib Dem MPs via Twitter to vote for changes to the education bill when it is debated on Wednesday
@andyburnhammp: Asking Lib Dems to vote for 1. fair admissions 2. qualified teachers in schools 3. 'face-to-face' careers advice #edbill
I would certainly agree with all three of these things and I hope it is just the 160 letter limit on Twitter preventing him for asking for more changes. Let's list a few more:

  • Return to three year budgets for schools to allow good financial management and planning
  • Restoration of decent capital budgets slashed by 60% or more leaving small primaries with virtually non-existent capital budgets and bigger schools with insufficient funds
  • Some limitations on the Free Schools programme to prevent the kind of mess we are seeing with unplanned and uncontrolled free schools causing local chaos. The impact on local schools must be considered bizarrely if I applied to open a new supermarket such local impact would be as part of planning rules
  • Some limitation on academy conversion to stop schools becoming academies to undermine sensible local re-organisation (see the mess in Suffolk with Middle Schools converting to academies)
  • A continued role for local education authorities who are better placed to make strategic decisions on schools than the DfE in Westminster - I say this fully supporting autonomy for local schools and have many times written about what a mess our local Suffolk education authority is...
  • Teacher's pensions need sorting out in a way that is fair to all.
I have been disappointed with the lack of any apparent influence by the Lib Dems over coalition education policy - with the exception of the pupil premium but even that is set so low and using such a blunt instrument (free school meals) as to be next to useless. 

We have seen tuition fees in universities trebled and in schools budgets cut and the usual ideological focus on particular ways to teach reading, history and even talk now of a list of what books primary school children should read. 

That and yet another education secretary - Michael Gove - who has no real world experience or knowledge of education. He reminds me of the kind of computer user IT professionals most dread - he just knows enough to mess things up.

At least Labour funded schools adequately. Their constant meddling was annoying but could in practice be ignored. What we have now is meddling but not the funds we need. Funded properly most schools can run themselves (with the appropriate support). 

I very much hope that the Lib Dems will now put a break on this. 

Health is an important issue of course but education is in danger of being ignored. Maybe because on the ground we are all so busy just fighting to survive....
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