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Free Schools

Volume 567: debated on Monday 9 September 2013

My right hon. Friend is aware that I am a huge fan of free schools, which not only offer extra school places but massively increase choice. As he will also be aware, there is great pressure on school places in Ealing. This week an application is going to his Department for a new free school, Ealing Fields, which has the support of the parents of 1,200 pupils, and counting. Does he agree that that application should be considered positively and favourably? We are all keeping our fingers crossed.

Of course we will look at this application as we look at all applications. Every time my hon. Friend has recommended that I meet a head teacher from Ealing, whether Lubna Khan or Alice Hudson, I have been overjoyed to do so. I am delighted that outstanding head teachers working in our schools are being celebrated by my hon. Friend, and that people such as Alice Hudson are providing the opportunity to open new free schools so that more children can benefit.

The Secretary of State and the shadow Education Secretary have visited and praised Cuckoo Hall academies in Enfield. Does my right hon. Friend share the frustration felt by me and by parents in my constituency that when there is the opportunity to spread the excellence of free schools in my constituency—for example, in the old Southgate town hall—it is repeatedly blocked by the Labour council?

I do share my hon. Friend’s frustration. It is incumbent on Labour Front Benchers to show leadership and to call out the local authorities, from London to the north-east, that are standing in the way of opportunity. Until they do so, I am afraid that we will have to conclude that Labour is still too weak to govern.