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Our Schools Must Become Cradles for Innovation

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In the six months since Ed Miliband appointed me as Shadow Education Secretary, I have visited over 30 schools - including academies, community schools, free schools and private schools.

One thing that has struck me is the excellent practice - the innovation and creativity - in operation in many of our schools, whatever the type.

I often think you can tell a good school when you walk in a classroom. The focussed atmosphere, the professionalism of the staff and the enthusiasm of the pupils hits you when you visit.

I am interested in developing a concept that Tim Brighouse - an educationalist I worked with in government on raising standards in London schools - has developed.

He talks about 'energy creators' - those who take maximum advantage from the creative space afforded by the leadership culture in a school, the flexibility of the curriculum, and the shared purpose in delivering a rigorous education.

I want every school in Britain to be a cradle for innovation, not just a learning factory.

Education is not about learning by rote, or sitting in rows, but about interaction and generating excitement in young people.

This comes to the core of our difference with the Conservatives. They seem to believe the essence of education is the transmitting of core knowledge. But we cannot develop entrepreneurship, critical thinking, communication skills, or indeed new knowledge in our young people if all we teach them is to regurgitate facts.

This is crucial when it comes to reforming our curriculum, and providing advice to teachers on pedagogy and best practice.

I have said that Labour will establish an independent body to advise ministers - the Office for Educational Improvement to ensure that all teachers are aware of the best available research in raising attainment and that national education policy is led by evidence.

So Labour will help the best schools become hubs for innovation, which can be shared with other schools.

And it is the job of politicians to ensure we talk up success, and don't just talk down teachers.

The evidence shows that the quality of teaching and learning is what makes the biggest difference and is the key to unleashing potential in schools.

The Sutton Trust found that over a school year, pupils gain one and a half year's worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with half a years' with poorly performing teachers. In other words, for poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher is like being left a year behind.

And so whilst some continue to pour scorn on the teaching profession, we must redouble our efforts to celebrate the success in the system and to promote greater innovation and collaboration, while never tolerating under-performance

There are thousands of examples of 'energy creators' in our system. The challenge lies in sharing their ideas on how to drive up performance, promote innovation and therefore deliver high quality education for all.

Stephen Twigg MP is Labour's Shadow Education Secretary