THE BLOG
06/09/2013 12:37 BST | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Labour Just Don't Get It - Education Is About Aspiration

I can still remember my first day at school. Like those taking their first steps through the school gates this week my overwhelming feelings were fear at leaving my comfort zone and excitement knowing I was at the beginning of something new.

The thousands of children who start at free schools this month will face the same emotions, but they're also taking part in a schools revolution. The new school year sees the number of free schools double, with 174 free schools now open. 46,000 new school places have been created. This is a tremendous achievement.

In the old days of the Labour government, state schools were told what to do by local and national politicians and bureaucrats. As a result too many schools faced a lack of discipline, under motivated staff, and a sense that second best was more than good enough.

Free schools allow teachers more freedom to do what they think best. They give parents a better choice of school for their child. Most importantly though: they work. Three quarters of those inspected so far have been rated as 'outstanding' or 'good' by Ofsted.

But like so many ideas that the public support - Labour have opposed free schools. Ed Balls and his successor Stephen Twigg want to stop them being built and have threatened to 'bring them into line'.

They're opposed to any shift of control away from Local Authorities and towards parents, and against any dilution of the teaching unions' power in the classroom. In case you needed any further evidence, Stephen Twigg has not uttered a word against the teaching strikes announced yesterday.

The public know this and until Labour change they won't trust them.

But perhaps the most offensive element of Labour's opposition to better education is not the stance of its leadership. It's the refusal of local Labour MPs to support free schools on the ground.

There are thirty one Labour MPs who are lucky enough to have free schools opening in their constituencies. Few have supported their local schools. Many more have actively campaigned against them. In contrast, the first free school in my constituency - The Nishkam School West London - has just opened and I've been actively supporting them throughout the process.

It tells you all you need to know about Labour that these MPs are so bound by party ideology that they won't support their own constituents aspiring to make a better life for their children. Because that is what education is about for Conservatives - aspiration. And it is something Labour just don't get.

Setting up a free school is not easy and it's not meant to be. The Department for Education quite rightly makes it a challenge for those who seek state funding - only the best applications have been approved. It requires hard work, vision and a dedication to improving the life chances of young people.

Those local champions who make the effort ought to be applauded, not shunned by their elected representatives.

We're busy making sure everyone, not just the rich, has the choice of a good school for their children. If this week has taught us anything it's that while Conservatives are trying to make things better, Labour haven't changed.