The way the Lib Dems have responded to the Trojan Horse revelations must be causing the Conservatives to thank their lucky stars they took Tony Blair’s advice on shaking up the public sector and prioritised school reforms at the start of the Coalition, rather than leaving the reforms until later. Nick Clegg’s comments about academy oversight and curriculum requirements this morning did rather suggest that if they’d had their time again, his party would only have backed legislation with a rather different character.
Naturally, the Conservatives in the Education department aren’t particularly impressed that this morning the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that ‘you need to get the balance right’ on autonomy for academies and that there was a need for a ‘core body of knowledge’ to be taught in all schools. A DfE source is keen to point out that the Lib Dems were, after all, very much in favour of all those early education reforms that the coalition introduced.
‘All academies and free schools are required to teach a broad and balanced curriculum: it’s written in their funding agreements. If they don’t do that, they are in breach of their contract and we can terminate their funding.
‘But fundamentally we believe in giving schools as much freedom as possible through the academies programme. It’s something that we’ve only been able to implement thanks to the support of the Liberal Democrats.
‘Lib Dem votes meant we could get the Academies Act through Parliament in 2010. That law has led to an enormous increase in the number of academies from 203 when we came in to 4,000 now. It’s obviously a shame if the Lib Dems are now having regrets.’
All of this doesn’t just serve to underline the wisdom of passing those reforms early, but also the extreme difficulty that both sides would encounter in trying to work together in another post-2015 coalition.