Labour's new shadow education secretary has rolled back from comments he made supporting free schools, saying on Sunday he still had "real concerns" about Michael Gove's flagship policy.
Last week Stephen Twigg told his local newspaper: “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.
On Sunday morning, in an attempt to clarify his remarks, said he meant his party would not oppose free schools set up by the government, not that Labour now supported the policy.
“What I said this week is we oppose the policy, we don’t want a free-for-all in British education, but as these schools open, some of them are going to be really good, some of them are going to be run by really good people and we’re not going to put ourselves in a position as a Labour Party of opposing those schools", he told Sky News.
His comments come after an outcry from Labour activists, who questioned if the opposition was now defining its policies through reshuffles.
The shadow education secretary's latest remarks will reassure grassroots Labour party members who do not support Gove's policy. The shadow education secretary also said that free schools were not a continuation of Labour's academies programme.
“We chose to put those schools into the most deprived neighbourhoods, we chose to replace failing schools with those academies – it was much more carefully done."
However he did offer the government some qualified support, adding: “Where I think the Government has a point is that school headteachers often do want more flexibility and I think we’ve got to look at making sure that headteachers get every support so they can make decisions that are best for the pupils in their schools, but not just in free schools – I want that in all schools.”
Twigg was appointed Labour's shadow education secretary earlier this month, taking over from Andy Burnham. The 1997 intake MP re-entered parliament as the member for Liverpool West Derby in 2010, after losing his seat in Enfield in the 2005 general election.