Stephen Twigg leads Labour's u-turn on free schools
Labour's new Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg is making waves - after overseeing a major reversal in Labour policy just a week into the job.
Mr Twigg has said Labour now supports free schools, such as the three in Birmingham and the Black Country, as long as they are raising standards for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As recently as September 25, Labour leader Ed Miliband was firmly opposed to the free schools policy.
He told Sky News: "Well I don't think free schools are the right answer, I don't think they are the right answer for education in this country and I'll tell you why, because they're taking money away from certain schools to give to other schools, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul, schools that were expecting to be rebuilt.
"I think there are real doubts about some of the admissions policies of some of the free schools and so I don't think free schools are the right answer for Britain, I'm very clear on that."
But there was a real change of emphasis this week when Mr Twigg responded to Education Secretary Michael Gove's announcement that 55 new applications for free schools had been accepted.
Mr Twigg told the House of Commons: "The question for the Government's free schools policy is will the new schools established be good ones. Will they extend opportunities, particularly in deprived areas?
"Will they drive up school standards in their localities? Will they be based on a fair admissions policy? Most important of all, will they help to close the attainment gap between children from rich and poor backgrounds?
"That is the basis on which we will scrutinise and challenge the Government's policy. The Secretary of State's belief in the programme is ideological. Our scrutiny will be evidence-based."
Now, Mr Twigg has spelt out the policy in an interview with Rob Merrick, Political Editor of The Liverpool Post, our sister paper in Liverpool.
Far from opposing free schools, Labour will now support them in the right circumstances.
"On free schools, I am saying that we need to apply a set of tests, that we are not going to take an absolute policy of opposing them.
"The tests should be: will the school raise standards for pupils and parents, will it contribute to a narrowing of the achievement gap between rich and poor and what is the wider impact of that school?"
Good news for Birmingham's free schools, Nishkam Primary School and the proposed Nishkam Secondary School, in Handsworth, as well as the Excellence Academy, which is currently looking for accommodation in north-west Birmingham or Sandwell.