Ed Balls has lambasted the coalition government for scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme and forging ahead with its “free schools” proposals.
The former schools secretary used his Labour Party conference speech to criticise ministers for promising new school buildings to parents “only if they are willing to opt out of the state system and any relationship with the elected local authority”.
Mr Balls was introduced to the podium in Manchester by Sandwell MBC councillor Elaine Costigan (Lab), who defected to the party from the Conservatives over the government’s scrapping of millions of pounds worth of schools capital projects in the borough.
He said that scrapping Building Schools for the Future had told hundreds of thousands of children that the government didn’t think they were “not worth” a new school.
He said free schools were “the most socially divisive piece of education policy in the past 60 years” and accused the government of wrongly focussing on well-performing middle –class schools for its new academies programme.
“I don’t think Michael Gove has got a clue about education in this country,” he said. “Michael Gove – the man they told us was amongst the Tories’ rising stars – they don’t say that anymore.”
Mr Balls went on to argue more broadly about the dangers of seeking to reduce the nation’s deficit too quickly.